How Toronto — and Canada’s — immigration landscape shifted because of one program

Posted on July 27, 2023 in Inclusion Delivery System

Source: — Authors: – News/Canada
July 27, 2023.   By Nicholas Keung Immigration Reporter

Provincial Nominee Program has diverted economic immigrants from Ontario, B.C. and Quebec to smaller provinces among other changes, study shows.

Canada’s immigration landscape has been dramatically changed by a program that has let provinces select their own skilled immigrants, a new study shows.

For the past two decades, it has seen newcomers spread more evenly across Canada — beyond the three traditional immigrant destinations: Ontario (mainly Toronto), British Columbia and Quebec.

The Provincial Nominee Program was first rolled out in Manitoba in 1998 and later expanded to the rest of the country.

The program fostered the sharing of so-called economic immigrants, leading to the decline of the proportion intending to settle in Ontario to 42 per cent from 61 per cent between 2000 and 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

These are immigrants selected for permanent residence solely for their skills and ability to contribute to Canada’s economy.

The share of such newcomers headed to B.C. also took a slight hit, declining to 15 per cent from 17 per cent, while the Prairie provinces gained substantially.

The proportion of new economic immigrants going to both Manitoba and Saskatchewan rose from virtually zero to more than six per cent, while Alberta saw its share up from six per cent to 10.6 per cent, as did the Atlantic provinces, with their collective share up from one percentage point to seven per cent.

“The program has contributed to a substantial regional decentralization of economic immigrants,” said the report, titled The Provincial Nominee Program: Its expansion in Canada.

“These changes would tend to improve economic outcomes.”

Between 1998 and 2005, all provinces — excluding Quebec, which had its own economic immigration system — and Yukon signed Provincial Nominee Program deals with the federal government, with the Northwest Territories coming on board last, in 2009.

The programs, started modestly with an overall annual target of 500 newcomers in 1999, only apply to the selection of economic immigrants.

By 2019, the provincial programs became Canada’s largest economic immigration program, accounting for 35 per cent of all economic immigrants to the country, skyrocketing from a negligible one per cent in 2000.

The growth of the programs has been at the expense of Canada’s signature Federal Skilled Worker Program — a general scheme that selects candidates with high education and professional experience — which saw its share of intake falling from 79 per cent in 2000 to just 30 per cent in 2009.

The shift to the Provincial Nominee Program has resulted in a significant increase in the share of economic immigrants with intended skilled and technical occupations, to 34 per cent from 20 per cent. The ratio of those with a professional background declined to 35 per cent from 55 per cent.

The Provincial Nominee Program allows a province or territory to choose to nominate and select a potential economic immigrant by recruiting those with the skills and experience that are in demand in local communities.

Each province has its own streams, targeting workers without job offers, workers with job offers, entrepreneurial skills and international graduates. While some streams may be geared toward attracting higher-skilled professionals, such as those in IT and health-care services, others focus on lower-skilled immigrants in the food industry and retail.

Today’s provincial nominees are also likely to be without dependants, as the ratio of family members admitted under the Provincial Nominee Program dropped to just 50 per cent in 2019 from 71 per cent in 2000, meaning more of those selected under the program actually came by themselves.

“This reflects the ever-younger nature of new provincial nominees and the decline in the share of nominees with families,” the report found.

Over the two decades, the ratio of principal Provincial Nominee Program applicants that were under 30 years old grew to 44 per cent from 30 per cent. The proportion of those who were previously temporary foreign workers also rose to 72 per cent now, from six per cent.

In 2019, 36 per cent of newcomers admitted under the Provincial Nominee Program came from South Asia, including India and Pakistan, followed by those from East Asia (22 per cent) and South East Asia (12 per cent), including the Philippines and Vietnam. The rest are from other continents.

“The past 20 years have seen a dramatic change in the way economic immigrants are selected in Canada,” the study said. “The rise of the PNP has played a central role in this development.

“Because principal (PNP) applicants are selected specifically for their increased likelihood of participating in the labour force and establishing themselves economically, an increase in their share likely improved the collective economic outcomes of recent economic immigrants.”

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based reporter covering immigration for the Star.


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