LILLEY: Ontario pushes Trudeau government for better immigration deal

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The Ontario government is looking to use a meeting in New Brunswick this week to gain more control over immigration. With more than 370,000 jobs going unfilled across the province, the Ford government wants more input on who comes to Ontario through the federal immigration system. 

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Ministers in charge of the immigration system from each of the provinces and territories will meet with federal immigration minister Sean Fraser in Saint John, N.B. this week and Ontario’s ask is simple — give us people to fill the jobs that are available. 

“As it stands today, 211,000 immigrants are coming to Ontario this year, and we choose less than 5% of those,” Labour Minister Monte McNaughton, in charge of immigration file provincially, said in an interview Tuesday. 

Last year, of the 405,330 immigrants that arrived in Canada last year, 198,085 or 49%, came to Ontario. Yet while other provinces were allowed to have a say in who would come to their province, just 9,000 of those immigrants, or 4.5% were chosen by the province.  

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Quebec, by comparison, had a say in more than 50,000 immigrants settling in their territory and most provinces have a bigger say in selecting their immigrants than Ontario has.

The Trudeau government, in response to a request from Ontario to have a greater say increased the number to 9,700 that the province will help select this year. For McNaughton, it’s not enough and he wants a better partnership with the federal government starting with an increase to 18,000 immediately and a new agreement negotiated late this year. 

“Nova Scotia is able to select 50% of their total number of immigrants and again, we’re only able to select 9,700 so less than 5% of our total number of immigrants that are coming, and the labor shortage situation is getting worse,” McNaughton said. 

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While he admits that immigration alone won’t solve the labour shortage — it’s something felt across the continent right now – it is an important piece of the puzzle. 

“It’s imperative that we get this new deal and fix the immigration system,” McNaughton said. 

It will take more than a new deal with Ontario to fix the immigration system. There is currently a backlog of more than two million people looking to come to Canada and the timelines for those who are successful is less than ideal. 

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Right now, when Canada is short countless people for jobs in the skilled trades, the federal skilled trades program has a processing time of 47 months, just shy of four years. Would you wait four years to come to Canada when your skills are in demand around the world? 

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A federal program to attract entrepreneurs has a 42-month processing time whil the time to complete an application to come to Canada under the “express” version of the provincial nominee program is 18 months. 

The Ford government has offered up the assistance of workers in the provincial civil service to move these applications along quicker, to get people into the country faster. So far, that offer hasn’t been accepted nor have the feds been interested in increasing the input Ontario has in selecting the immigrants who can come here to fill the jobs going wanting. 

McNaughton says the need for jobs, and immigrant labour, is across all sectors and across all parts of the province. Whether he can get a new deal remains to be seen. 

Neither side is against increasing immigration in Ontario, it just comes down to how it is done and who gets the final say. 





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