Over the last decade, Ontario has received a declining share of immigrants to Canada. The Ontario government says it needs more immigrants to bolster Ontario’s labour force and it needs more control over immigration to do that.
59 per cent of immigrants to Canada settled in Ontario as recently as 2001. Today it’s closer to 40 per cent. The total number of immigrants to Ontario dropped by one third between 2001 and 2011. That represents the shift from receiving three out of five newcomers to Canada to two out of five over the same time period.
This decline in Ontario’s share of immigrants can largely be explained by a deliberate set of policy changes made by the federal government aimed at getting economic immigrants to settle outside of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
Ontario’s immigration levels since 2001 have closely tracked the Federal Skilled Worker program, the points-based system for economic immigrants to apply to come to Canada that has been the main source of immigrants for decades. Ontario has consistently attracted immigrants that come through this program. However, the federal government reduced the number of new immigrants that come through this program by over a third, and also added restrictions so that new applications can only come from about two dozen occupations, many of which are important to the resource sector in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Taking the place of Federal Skilled Workers has been the Provincial Nominee Programs. These agreements with individual provinces allow provincial governments to select immigrants to come to their province. In particular, these policies have reduced the number of people that come to Ontario through economic immigration programs. There are three main categories of immigrants to Canada: economic immigrants, family class immigrants and humanitarian/refugee immigrants.
Federal changes to immigration policy have resulted in Ontario adding fewer new immigrants to its workforce, and fewer immigrants selected for economic criteria in particular. The result is a significant negative impact on the province’s labour force growth. Federal and provincial governments are developing a new approach to economic immigration called the Express Entry system. This system would change the way potential immigrants’ applications are selected for processing, which could in turn have an impact on where immigrants settle throughout the country. This development has the potential to replace the current system with a more responsive one that better supports Ontario.
Attorney Colin Singer Commentary:
If Ontario wants to receive a greater share of immigrants it needs to negotiate a suitable agreement with the Federal government as Quebec and others have successfully done. Immigration is an area of shared jurisdiction between the Federal government and the Provinces since Confederation.
Source: Mowat Centre