March 12, 2018 – New pilot projects are aiming to help Ontario immigrants struggling to find work in the Toronto region make connections with rural communities looking for a population boost.
With new permanent residents always drawn to Canada’s major cities, a key challenge is getting them to disburse to smaller towns where the need is greater.
Aging population, shrinking labour markets and economic decline are all challenges of life in Canada’s more rural communities. As the federal government looks to bringing in hundreds of thousands of new immigrants each year, getting them to settle in the places they are really needed is a key aspect of the integration challenge.
On the flip-side, it will also ease the pressure placed on major cities to absorb so many newcomers.
One example of how this is being tackled is the New to Grey pilot project, which looks to link permanent residents struggling for work in major cities with vacancies in the Grey country area.
The provincially-funded project looks to pair candidates up with potential employers, and also saw a bus-load of people take on a field trip to attend a recent Owen Sound jobs fair.
The idea is to match newcomers to communities where shortages exist for skilled workers. The candidates are urged to do their homework before the trip, linking u with recruiters who operate in the region to give advice on CVs, what employers are looking for and how the local labour market is structured.
Further rural recruitment jobs fairs are being planned, as provincial officials step up their efforts to tackle a key issue.
Not a New Problem
This is not a new problem for Canada, so if the current government is going to solve it, they need to think innovatively.
There needs to be considerable joined-up thinking across all levels of government to make it happen.
It is not clear whether the federal government has a legal avenue to explore in terms of making immigrants reside in a specific province or area.
In order for a court to allow such a limitation, governments would have to show that chronic labour shortages in certain areas of Canada are a threat to the future of those areas.
Then a court might be convinced of the seriousness of the issue.
If the restriction was temporary and not too onerous on newcomers, there is a chance a court could find a way towards allowing it.
Building a new immigration program stream specifically for this purpose could also offset some of the concerns.
Immigrants could be restricted to living in certain areas, and in return they would be in with a better chance of gaining permanent residency, and more quickly.
But all of this seems unlikely given the major hurdle is the constitutional right to free movement for permanent residents.
Provincial policy makers need to create the right conditions and consider a variety of measures for immigrants to remain there.
Some possible policies include:
- Short term provincial tax credits for new residents.
- Offer residential land purchases in outlying areas at below market prices.
- Conditional property tax exemptions.
Given the need to rely on immigration as a tool to meet growing demographic challenges, policy makers must consider the carrot approach.
The immigration tools are in place. They just need to be complemented with input from a much wider range of stakeholders to create the right conditions for immigrants to remain by choice.
This strategy will go a long way to helping ensure the success of Canada’s overall immigration policy objectives.
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