A popular immigration program that allows provinces to hand-pick immigrants to meet local labour market needs has successfully attracted newcomers to places other than Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, but retaining them is still a challenge, especially for the Atlantic Provinces.
A federal review of the Provincial Nominee Program, better known as PNP, found that 76 per cent of the newcomers admitted through the program between 2010 and 2015 were destined for locations outside those three provinces.
Today, more than a quarter of economic immigrants come through the provincial program, up from just 10 per cent a decade ago. The rest come through federal programs.
“There is a continued need for the PNP,” said the evaluation by the Immigration Department. “The program spreads the benefits of immigration beyond major cities and helps fill local employment gaps.”
The nominee program has become a key mechanism to attract new immigrants to the Atlantic and Prairie provinces over the years because of the speedy processing promised by Ottawa in comparison to other immigration programs, and its focus on in-demand skills rather than university education and language requirements. It favours international students and migrant workers who are already established in those provinces.
The program accounted for 96 per cent of the total economic immigration in Prince Edward Island; 93 per cent in Manitoba; 89 per cent in Saskatchewan; 89 per cent in Yukon; 86 per cent in New Brunswick; 72 per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador; and 59 per cent in Nova Scotia.
While most provinces have retained 80 to 95 per cent of their selected immigrants, the Atlantic Provinces fared poorly, said the report, with retention rates varying from only 27 per cent for P.E.I. to 65 per cent for Nova Scotia.
The Immigration Department was so delighted by the success of the provincial nominee program that it has set to expand the capacity of the program by 33 per cent in the next three years to a target of 67,800 in 2020 from 51,000 last year.
Barbara J. Caruso, chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s immigration division, said the provincial program fills a gap in the federal immigration programs that have stringent language and educational requirements.
“The Provincial Nominee Program plays an important role in catching candidates who are worthy,” said Caruso, adding that the PNP is a crucial alternative for candidates who lack formal education and language skills.
Leslie Seidle, a researcher with the Institute for Research on Public Policy, an Ottawa-based think tank, said the program is quite distinct from federal immigration programs in allowing candidates with lower educational attainment but in-demand technical skills a pathway for immigration.
The immigration report showed just 54 per cent of the nominees who came between 2010 and 2015 had a university degree, up 3 percentage points from the cohorts who arrived between 2005 and 2009. However, university-holders in the program were still far below the 83 per cent among those selected under the federal skilled worker program.
It found more than half of the provincial nominees had occupational backgrounds in skilled trades and technical fields, intermediate and clerical jobs, and general labour — compared to 78 per cent of federal skilled workers who held professional and managerial jobs.
“We need people in all job categories and we need to acknowledge it. I don’t call it overlap,” said Seidle, who authored a report on the provincial nominee immigration program in 2013 that called for improved collaboration between the federal and provincial governments.
Caruso said provinces should expand their use of the nominee program to attract self-employed immigrants such as farmers and entrepreneurs, both immigration categories now off the radar of the federal immigration but are crucial for job creation.
“The bar association strongly supports a robust PNP and we encourage the federal and provincial governments to co-operate in developing programs that identify gaps in the system,” she noted.
The report calls for further analyses to better understand how the provincial nominee program fits into Canada’s federal economic immigration plan and better information sharing to improve program design and efficiency.
Where immigrants went:
Provincial nominees (2010-2015):
Nova Scotia: 3%
New Brunswick: 3%
Prince Edward Island: 3%
Newfoundland and Labrador: 1%
British Columbia: 18%
Northwest Territories: 0.1%
Federal skilled workers (2010-2015):
Nova Scotia: 1%
New Brunswick: 0.3%
Prince Edward Island: 0.1%
Newfoundland and Labrador: 0.2%
British Columbia: 17%
Northwest Territories: 0%
*Data does not include Quebec, which has exclusive responsibility for selecting immigrants and refugees abroad destined for the province.
Source: The Star