Immigration: Ontario grows impatient as negotiations with Ottawa drag on

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Immigration: Ontario grows impatient as negotiations with Ottawa drag on

Ontario, including deal with Ottawa expires shortly, wants the same immigration powers as Quebec.

Ontario Minister of Labor and Immigration, Monte McNaughton

Within one month of the end of the five-year Canada-Ontario immigration agreement, the Ford government still does not know if it will obtain the new powers it has been asking for months in Ottawa to fill its labor shortage.

Since the provincial election in June, Doug Ford has repeatedly said that he deserves to be on an equal footing with François Legault in this matter. Quebec has more control over the choice of its immigrants, but for linguistic reasons.

I see no sense of urgency on the part of the federal government, says the Minister of Ontario Labor and Immigration, Monte McNaughton, interviewed by Radio-Canada.

His last call to his federal counterpart, Sean Fraser, dates back to October 24. Their regular appeals have so far failed to yield any significant concessions, he says.

Among other things, Ontario wants to double the number of economic immigrants under the Ontario Provincial Nominee Program to 18,000 next year. immigration. This year, their number will increase slightly, to about 9,700 immigrants, compared to 9,000 last year.

Canadian Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser

Ontario is also asking for more leeway to expand access to work permits for skilled and healthcare workers, as well as increased funding for training newcomers .

Minister McNaughton hoped to get some answers on Tuesday, as the federal government unveiled its immigration targets through 2025.

Francois' demands Legault on immigration are probably a higher priority for the Trudeau government than those of Doug Ford, believes the director of the Institute for Canadian Studies at McGill University, Daniel Béland, since the debate is more politicized in Quebec.

Moreover, by Minister McNaughton's own admission, this is not a divisive subject in Ontario.

The federal government is keeping Ontario waiting for the last minute, probably because the goal is to reach an identical or very similar agreement, rather than to make significant concessions, says Mr. Béland.

All the more, adds the political scientist , that studies are not unanimous on the impact of immigration on labor shortages.

He does not rule out the possibility that the two provinces could decide to form a united front to demand more powers from Ottawa in this file, as they are already doing for health transfers, which could lead to a domino effect.

Doug Ford already raised the issue at the Council of the Federation in July and signed a joint letter with his counterparts in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba the same month asking federal minister Sean Fraser to allow their provinces to select more immigrants with the skills their provinces need most.

Doug Ford, John Horgan and François Legault in July, during the Council of the Federation

Ottawa remains very cautious, because Quebec is seen as a distinct society. If we start giving equivalent powers to Ontario, that opens the door for all the provinces to demand autonomy, concludes Daniel Béland, who also does not believe that Quebec will obtain major concessions.< /p>

In 2021, Ontario welcomed 200,000 immigrants, four times more than Quebec. There are approximately 400,000 job vacancies in Ontario, depending on the province.

In addition to the requests made above, Ontario is asking Ottawa to reclassify Ukrainian refugees so that they can obtain financial assistance longer after arriving in the country.

< p class="e-p">Ontario, says Minister McNaughton, has taken in 25,000 refugees from Ukraine since the start of the war and expects to receive more.

In March, Monte McNaughton said that 30,000 jobs were available for these refugees in the province. The Minister was unable to confirm to Radio-Canada how many of these positions had since been filled.

For its part, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada points out that the Ontario receives the largest allocation of places among the provinces and territories, and […] the largest share of immigrants coming to Canada.

IRCC also recalls having set implemented an overhaul of the Express Entry system to meet economic needs, which was included in its budget legislation passed in the spring.

The Canada-Ontario immigration agreement takes ends Nov 24.

Canada: 401,000

Ontario: 198,500

Quebec : 50,253

Source: IRCC, MIFI, Government of Ontario (2022)

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