Canada Needs Increased Immigration, Say Provincial and Territorial Premiers

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Canada immigration news: Canada needs to up its immigration game and give the provinces and territories more of a say in both the recruitment of international students and other immigrants through the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs).

That is according to the provincial and territorial premiers, who met in Victoria, British Columbia for two days of talks on healthcare, inflation economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic – and immigration. 

“To support the retention of Canadian educated international students, (the) premiers urge the federal government to remove barriers to international students accessing federal employment support programs, including collaboration with provinces and territories in optimizing the Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) for international students to meet local workforce needs and more efficient transitions to permanent residency,” the premiers said in a statement.

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With a PGWP, international grads get a work permit and can work in Canada upon graduation for up to three years. 

That permit for international grads is exempt from Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) requirements.

The candidate must have attended a recognized post-secondary school, or a secondary school that offers qualifying programs, for at least eight months. For programs lasting between eight months and two years, the permit is issued for the length of the study. For international students who have studied for two years or more, a three-year permit is issued.

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The valuable work experience gained during this period can count towards a permanent residence application through the Express Entry system.

The lure of the permanent residence for international students is so great that in October last year the National Association of Career Colleges (NACC) called for international students at private career colleges to also be considered eligible for the PGWP.

“We don’t have enough Canadians to fill the demand for personal support workers but if we could offer the work permits, we could bring in more students,” said George Hood, chair of the National Association of Career Colleges (NACC), in an interview.

He estimated private career colleges in Canada could see their enrolment jump by at least 10 per cent if Ottawa were to allow students at these designated learning institutions to qualify for PGWPs.

“It’s something we’ve been working on for years,” he said Hood.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser has also previously hinted at a new pathway to permanent residency for international students which may change the rules with regards to study permits soon.

Give Provinces, Territories More Say In PNPs, Say Premiers

In the wake of their talks, the premiers also called on Ottawa to improve – and boost – the PNPS.

“Provinces and territories are best placed to ensure alignment between immigration and our local labour market needs,” said the premiers in a statement. 

“(The) premiers call on the federal government to work with provinces and territories to expand Provincial and Territorial Nominee Programs and ensure the necessary federal resources are in place for timely and efficient processing of nominees. 

“As immigration is an area of shared jurisdiction, the federal government should improve partnership on multi-year planning, including levels and economic priorities. Federal immigration policies should complement and respect the role of provinces and territories in economic immigration through Provincial and Territorial Nominee Programs.”

Through a network of PNPs, almost all of Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories can nominate skilled worker candidates for admission to Canada with the specific skills required by their local economies. 

Successful candidates who receive a provincial or territorial nomination can then apply for Canadian permanent residence through federal immigration authorities. This is an important component of all provincial programs. Many provinces also run their own categories under the Express Entry System. As a result, the provinces have an increasing role in the selection of economic immigrants.

The premiers’ call for more immigration echoes the sentiments of roughly half of Canada’s major employers.

“Canada’s unemployment rate stands at a record low, underscoring the extent to which labour shortages are holding back the country’s economic recovery and exacerbating inflation,” says Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada.

The business advocacy group released a report in June, Canada’s Immigration Advantage: A Survey of Major Employers, in which it highlighted the serious lack of qualified workers to fill jobs in Canada.

“Eighty per cent of surveyed employers are having trouble finding skilled workers,” noted the business advocacy group in that report. “Shortages exist in every province and territory but are most pronounced in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia.

“Employers are struggling to fill technical roles. Skills shortages are most common in fields such as computer science, engineering, and information technology. Employers are also struggling to find construction workers, plumbers, electricians, and other skilled trades.”

Business Leaders Urging Ottawa To Boost Immigration To Resolve Labour Shortages

The business group wants Ottawa to clear the backlog of about 2.4 million applications before Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) officials. 

Then, it wants the federal government to get to work on:

  • improving the immigration system to increase the availability of skilled, qualified workers;
  • enhancing Canada’s collective capacity and ability to recognize foreign credentials;
  • eliminating barriers to labour mobility, such as interprovincial differences in professional requirements for a given job, and;
  • increasing labour force participation among older people and other under-represented groups.

In its Immigration Levels Plan for 2022 to 2024, Canada is aiming to bring in 431,645 immigrants this year, 447,055 next year, and 451,000 in 2024.

“Immigration has helped shape Canada into the country it is today. From farming and fishing to manufacturing, healthcare and the transportation sector, Canada relies on immigrants,” said Fraser earlier this year.

“We are focused on economic recovery, and immigration is the key to getting there. Setting bold new immigration targets, as outlined in the 2022-2024 Levels Plan, will further help bring the immeasurable contribution of immigrants to our communities and across all sectors of the economy.”

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