Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has enlisted the help of the business community in persuading Ottawa to boost immigration to his Prairie province.
At a Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce luncheon, the premier again highlighted his Saskatchewan Party’s vision of a new relationship with the federal government where the province would be freer to set its own immigration targets.
“We are not short of jobs. We are short of people,” he said.
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The premier wants business people in his province to lobby Ottawa for a new, Canada-Saskatchewan immigration accord like the one the federal government has with Quebec. Under such a deal, Saskatchewan’s immigration targets would be raised to 13,000 new permanent residents per year.
“Saskatchewan requires more autonomy and flexibility over immigration in order to meet its economic needs and address gaps in the labour market,” Jeremy Harrison, Saskatchewan’s immigration and career training minister, said in a statement in July.
“Canada should be focusing its efforts on reducing processing times for applications and let the provinces select immigrants and ensure their effective settlement.”
In late July, Harrison met with federal and provincial immigration ministers and proposed a detailed plan to give Saskatchewan similar control over immigration as that enjoyed by Quebec.
Dubbed the Saskatchewan Immigration Accord, the proposal would give Saskatchewan sole authority to nominate newcomers moving to Saskatchewan, control over the family class of immigration, and transfer federal resources for settlement services to Saskatchewan.
It would also guarantee a provincial allocation of nominees each year proportionate to the population of Saskatchewan within Canada.
“When it comes to immigration Saskatchewan expects the same deal as Quebec,” said Harrison.
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“Immigration is a key component of our government’s plan to grow the province to 1.4 million people and create an additional 100,000 jobs by 2030. Provincial governments are in the best position to respond to local labour market needs with new Canadians. The provinces should not be limited by economic categories or caps on Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) set by the federal government.”
Saskatchewan expects to meet and exceed its current cap of 6,000 under the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP) this year.
Without an increase to the federal cap, the province claims that international recruitment by employers will be delayed. A proportionate share of national immigration would see at minimum 13,000 positions allocated to the province this year, more than double the current rate of immigration to Saskatchewan.
The premier claims a Saskatchewan Immigration Accord would reduce help to newcomers through the creation of a continuum of services ranging from settlement services to integration. A transfer in settlement service funding would mean roughly $42 million dollars would be transferred to the province annually.
“Our province has gained a great deal of experience and developed very significant capacity in the past decade and a half in administering and managing the SINP,” said Harrison.
“We know our province’s needs and labour markets better than the government of Canada. By transferring the selection of all immigrants to our province, including in the family class, the federal government can focus on addressing the outrageous processing times for admissions that are causing such issues for hundreds of thousands of potential new Canadians.
The transfer of responsibility for delivering settlement programming to the province also makes sense. We know our partners, local circumstances and needs better than the government of Canada does.”