Ontario needs to boost immigration by 135,000: Report

32 recommendations to inform formal strategy
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 10/03/2012

Ontario should increase its level of immigration to at least one per cent of its population or 135,000 people per year, according to a report from Ontario’s Expert Roundtable on Immigration. And at least 65 per cent to 70 per cent of these immigrants should be economic class immigrants.

The report outlines 32 recommendations meant to inform the province’s first formal immigration strategy. For the province to prosper and remain globally competitive, Ontario needs more skilled immigrants. The province also must ensure that effective programs and services are available to help improve settlement and integration for all immigrants, said the roundtable.

Competition to attract immigrants is more intense than in the past as other countries are more aggressively courting immigrants and many historical source countries are becoming immigrant destinations, offering greater economic opportunity than they did before, it said.

While Ontario remains the top destination in Canada for immigrants, the number of economic immigrants to the province has steadily declined — from 89,079 in 2001 to 36,939 in 2011. Ontario is receiving fewer immigrants selected on the basis of their human capital — their education, skills and experience — and their ability to integrate into Canada's labour market, which includes proficiency in English or French.

Ontario's value proposition to potential immigrants must be renewed, said the report.

An immigration strategy for Ontario should be designed to achieve the following objectives:

•strengthen Ontario's economy, communities and families

•attract, retain and integrate more immigrants, including more immigrants with high levels of human capital

•increase the proportion of economic class immigrants to the province, while maintaining a balanced approach to immigrant selection to reflect Ontarians' commitment to humanitarian principles and family reunification

•improve economic and social outcomes for new and existing immigrants and their families.

Making the immigration system work better for Ontario requires a renewed partnership between the provincial and federal governments, said the roundtable. A successful strategy will also require better alignment and co-ordination with other governments and actors including the private sector, post-secondary institutions and community organizations, said the roundtable.

Roundtable recommendations:

1. Over the long-term, the level of immigration to Ontario should be increased to at least one per cent of its population, or 135,000 people per year. At least 65 to 70 per cent of these immigrants should be economic class immigrants.

2. Selection processes should be fair, transparent and facilitate diversity in the mix of immigrant source countries.

3. Economic immigrants should be selected based on criteria that emphasize human capital, rather than current occupation.

4. A revamped Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) should continue to be the main source of economic immigration to Ontario.

5. The priority occupations list for the FSWP should be eliminated.

6. The governments of Canada and Ontario should work in partnership on the design and operation of the new Expression of Interest (EOI) model.

7. The government of Ontario needs to engage employers and municipalities in identifying labour market needs and challenges.

8. Efforts should be made through the Canadian Experience Class program to retain individuals who have experience working and studying in Ontario.

9. Selecting economic immigrants based on occupational and other narrow criteria should be done only on a limited basis.

10. Ontario's Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) should be used to respond to specific occupational shortages and to the needs of communities, including Francophone and rural communities.

11. The government of Canada should raise the cap on Ontario's PNP from its current level of 1,000 to 5,000 people per year.

12. The Federal Skilled Worker Backlog Reduction Pilot should be extended to 2014 and expanded.

13. The Federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program should focus on recruiting high-skilled workers and workers in the skilled trades and facilitating the rapid filling of temporary vacancies.

14. Ontario should make better use of the Temporary Foreign Worker Agreement to accomplish its objectives under recommendation 13.

15. Ontario needs more information about temporary foreign workers.

16. Protections for temporary foreign workers should be strengthened to prevent abuse and unsafe working conditions.

17. The issue of undocumented workers should be addressed by both the governments of Ontario and Canada.

18. The federal government should maintain and strengthen the Live-In Caregiver Program.

19. Ontario should attract and retain more international entrepreneurs.

20. The government of Ontario should develop a marketing and promotion strategy to attract immigrants with high levels of human capital to the province.

21. A one-window, client-centred, “no wrong door” approach should be developed for all government services important to immigrants.

22. Pre-arrival information and services should be expanded.

23. Programs that target immigrants' networks to enable the effective integration of new immigrants — particularly family, friends, and faith groups — should be supported in Ontario.

24. Criteria for accessing settlement and integration programs should be co-ordinated across funders and service providers to ensure temporary foreign workers, foreign students, refugee claimants and new Canadian citizens can access these services.

25. Mentorship, internship and bridge training programs should be expanded in Ontario.

26. Settlement and integration services should be measured and assessed based on immigrant outcomes.

27. Employers and communities need to be champions in the integration of immigrants.

28. Federal and Ontario government supports for refugees should reflect the need to provide longer-term services to many within this group.

29. The government of Canada should continue to honour its traditional commitment to refugee claimants, including continuing to fund the Interim Federal Health Program.

30. The Ontario government should continue to work with professional regulatory bodies to improve the assessment and recognition of immigrants' qualifications, including academic credentials, practical training, and experience.

31. The government of Ontario should ensure that aggrieved applicants for licensure have appropriate recourse.

32. The federal and Ontario governments should work together to ensure that the new federal credential and language assessment system is aligned with licensing bodies and not misconstrued as licensure.

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