Four Canadian provinces, including Ontario, are urging Canada’s federal government to give them more control over immigration.

In a letter to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, ministers from Canada’s most-populous province, plus Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, urging they be given the freedom to select newcomers in response to their specific labour market needs.

The letter highlights how Canada and its provinces are engaged in a ‘global race for talent’, ahead of a meeting of provincial immigration ministers and their federal counterpart taking place in Saint John, New Brunswick.

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The ministers also cited ‘changing economic and humanitarian needs’ and ‘the rapidly evolving needs of specific areas and communities’ in making their case for greater powers.

Ministers said they want to choose newcomers with the greatest chance of success in their provinces.

Ontario is by far the largest recipient of new immigrants, with more than 199,000 immigrating to the province in 2021. However, the vast majority of those came through federal programs, such as those linked to Express Entry, including the Canadian Experience Class, Federal Skilled Worker Program and Federal Skilled Trades Program.

The Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) was allowed to nominate just 9,000 newcomers last year. It asked for that number to be doubled in 2022, allowing it to select 18,000 out of a potential 211,000 new permanent residents. But Ottawa only granted the OINP an allocation increase of 700.

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Ontario Immigration Minister Monte McNaughton cites Quebec as an example of the level of power over immigration he would like to see rolled out to Canada’s other provinces.

The French-speaking province selected nearly 60 percent of its just over 50,000 newcomers in 2021, compared to just 4.5 percent in Ontario.

Other provinces were similarly low in the number of immigrants selected, including 9.3 percent in British Columbia and 15 percent in Alberta.

McNaughton argues Ontario has the most acute need when it comes to labour shortages, with 378,000 jobs vacancies and a chronic need for health and skilled trades workers.

The vast majority of Ontario’s immigrants come through federal skilled worker and family class streams.

In 2021, the province welcomed 94,770 newcomers through federal economic programs, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) figures. A further 36,675 immigrants came through family programs, including spouses, partners and children and parents and grandparents.

Meanwhile, the province welcomed only 5,875 Provincial Nominee Program newcomers.

Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP)

The Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) supports employers by facilitating the immigration of managerial, professional and skilled foreign workers and international students required to meet their human resources needs.

Interested candidates must follow a two-stage process: apply for nomination to the provincial government, and then, if nominated, apply for permanent residence to the federal government.

OINP Streams

The OINP manages three immigration categories: Human Capital, Employer Job Offer and Business Immigration. Each category is further divided into several streams.

Human Capital Category

This category enables OINP to nominate candidates who have the skills, education and work experience to contribute to Ontario’s economy and labour market. It is comprised of three Express Entry streams and two international student streams:

Employer Job Offer Category

Interested individuals may apply under this category only if they have the support of an Ontario employer who has extended to them a full-time indeterminate job offer.

Business Category

The Ontario Business Immigration program has one immigration stream directed to applicants with a successful business background.

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