When provincial nominee programs came on the scene in the 1990s, they were heralded as a way for provinces outside of Quebec to select immigrants to settle directly in specific provinces. (Quebec has had virtually total control of immigration to that province for decades.) For years, the vast majority of the immigrants to Canada settled in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. Provincial nominee programs were supposed to encourage immigration to a variety of other areas of Canada.
For the most part, these programs have done just that. Now the percentage of immigrants settling outside Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal is much larger. These programs have brought skilled workers to many areas of the country that faced specific shortages. By focusing on skilled workers, many provincial immigrants made immediate impacts in the job market.
In the last year or so, the relevancy of provincial nominee programs has come into focus as the federal government revamps its immigration programs. As I argued in my Free Press op-ed last month, improvements to federal immigration programs for executive, managers, skilled tradespeople and professionals may make provincial nominee programs desirable only for what the government of Canada calls “low-skilled” workers. In fact, in a my newsletter to clients last week, I argued that there are circumstances when business should NOT use the Manitoba program.
If provincial programs are relegated to a “low-skilled” immigration program, who will use them? Well, as long as the federal programs do not include these workers, the provincial programs will remain attractive. There are a number of temporary foreign workers in “low-skilled” positions and unless there is a federal immigration program for them, these workers and their employers will need provincial programs to focus on them.
As well, provincial programs can also act as a substitute for the old “assisted relative” program that allowed people in Canada to support the immigration of their relatives to overseas even when these relatives do not have jobs. Essentially, the last elements of this old program was eliminated from the federal system in the latest re-write of federal immigration laws. As I argued in my blog post last month, immigration will continue to be driven by employers. The days of immigrants choosing Canada will be replaced with the reality of businesses choosing immigrants.
In Manitoba, the “assisted relative” portion of their immigration program is quite popular. Known as the “Family Support Stream”, this program has not ended as I discussed could be the case in my blog post from July. If the “Family Support Stream”is maintained, it represents one of the last important immigration programs for “assisted relatives”. Unfortunately, Manitoba is virtually alone in offering this type of immigration program.