Friday, March 16, 2012

Province promises immigration strategy

By ,Toronto Sun
First posted:

Ontario Citizenship and Immigration Minister Charles Sousa. (Toronto Sun files)
TORONTO - The province’s Liberal government is promising to create its own immigration strategy to improve economic development and “social prospects for new immigrants.”
Citizenship and Immigration ministry staff on Friday said plans are afoot “to create our own, made-in-Ontario immigrant strategy.”
In an e-mail response, officials said the province “remains Canada’s economic engine,” generating nearly 40% of the 2010 gross domestic product, and must have a greater say in selecting newcomers.
They predicted “in the next three to five years, immigrants will account for all of Ontario’s net labour market growth,” with highly-skilled newcomers needed “to remain competitive in the global marketplace.”

One key requirement will be “a highly skilled and educated workforce that can succeed in today’s knowledge-based economy,” with more than 70% of all new jobs in the province requiring “some form of post-secondary education.”

The officials said the provincial government is working on integrating newcomers into job markets and communities “through bridge training, credential recognition, language training and settlement programs.”

But they claimed Ontario’s workplace needs are undermined by a “huge applications backlog” of 200,000 Ontario-bound people stuck in the federal Skilled Worker Program, while the feds limit Queen’s Park to nominating only 1,000 people a year under the Opportunities Ontario: Provincial Nominee Program.

While lauding Ottawa for acknowledging immigration system problems, with promises “that changes must be made,” the Citizenship and Immigration officials criticized the federal government’s announcement last year of $31.6 million in cuts to Ontario’s settlement agency funds by 2013 — bringing to $75 million the reductions since 2010.

The cutback will hit immigrants harder, since their unemployment rate — particularly recent arrivals — “is much higher than Canadian-born workers,” the provincial officials said.