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Why Does Ontario Need A Regional Immigration Strategy?

A new immigration strategy for selecting, helping and welcoming immigrants settle in the Greater Toronto Area would benefit all.

In 2018, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) welcomed 106,000 newcomers. In other words, the GTA have so far welcomed more new immigrants than Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Quebec and four other Atlantic provinces put together.

Immigration to the GTA is not reducing as the region has already welcomed about 60,000 newcomers in the first half of 2019—considerably more migrants than any province is able to drawn over an entire year.

Without doubt, Immigration is beneficial to the GTA as it makes the province one of the most culturally lively in the world, and also fiscally and economically healthier than the rest of Ontario. Equally, it would be beneficial for newcomers, the GTA, and Ontario to know how to encourage more migrants to settle in other areas of the province.

Today, the GTA makes up Fourty-five (45) per cent of Ontario’s population but attracts approximately Eighty (80) per cent of its immigrants. This means that Fifty-five (55) per cent of the region benefits from just twenty (20) per cent of its newcomers. This comes at a period when immigrants are required more than ever to alleviate the fiscal and economical challenges that are posed by Canada’s low birth rate and ageing population.

Connecting migrants with good employment opportunities in other areas of the province would benefit them as they would be able to settle conveniently in Canada in places that are more affordable than the GTA.

These places would benefit from drawing more global talents who would be a primary source of labour, tax revenues and consumption. Meanwhile, the GTA would benefit since this would help in addressing the infrastructural challenges it faces (e.g., affordable housing and public transit) due to the rapid population expansion caused by large influx of immigrants and Canadians alike to the region.

The federal and provincial governments acknowledges the significance of promoting the broader distribution of newcomers across Ontario. For example, the Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement, which regulates the relationship between the two parties, defines their commitment to work together on this front.

In its 2019 budget, the Ontario provincial government declared it will test new pilot programs so that smaller communities can draw more newcomers. The federal government started a new major initiative of its own earlier this year called the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot that focuses on helping communities across the country including in northern Ontario benefited from more immigration.

Stakeholders such as the three levels of government, business/employer groups, post-secondary institutions, immigration agencies need to work together to develop a strategy on how they can achieve their shared goal of promoting immigration beyond the GTA.

The strategy should consider short- and long-term goals with an operational plan that would allow stakeholders to assess their progress and adjust accordingly. This is to make sure that they are on the right track.

The Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) can be adjusted to award more points to applicants interested in settling outside of the GTA. For instance, preference could be given to temporary foreign workers and international students who already live in such communities.

Finally, newcomers may not move to these communities except they have access to job opportunities connected with their skills. Hence, more efforts can be taken by the likes of business/employers groups such as chambers of commerce to guide employers on the advantages of employing immigrants and what steps they should take to onboard global talents.