Pilot would support labour needs of employers in smaller Ontario communities

A proposed regional immigration pilot that would bring skilled foreign workers to rural and smaller communities in Ontario could become a reality in 2020, the province’s government says. 

In an update published this week, Ontario’s Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade said its staff will work with stakeholders in selected communities to assess interest in the proposed Ontario Regional Immigration Pilot and to gather information about “existing community immigrant attraction and retention efforts.”

The update doesn’t name the communities involved in the consultations.

The communities are described as “a geographically and culturally diverse sample” and the government says they were targeted for their population size of 20,000 to 200,000 people, the presence of newcomer settlement infrastructures such as language and settlement services, and unnamed “economic characteristics.”

The government says the consultations will allow it to determine both local interest and capacity for participation in the pilot, which would be administered by the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program.

“Final selection of pilot communities would be based on data analysis, along with the results of engagement with communities,” the update reads.

No details were provided for when the selected communities would be unveiled or how interested immigration candidates could eventually apply.

Regional pilots: a Canadian trend

The Government of Ontario says it would play a supporting role in the community-led efforts to attract skilled labour.

“An Ontario pilot would specifically target the needs of Ontario communities and explore how to better regionalize the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program to better support Ontario employers in smaller communities,” the government said, adding the proposed pilot would not duplicate the federal government’s new Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot.

Six communities in Northern Ontario have been selected to take part in the federal pilot, which works with smaller rural and remote communities in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia attract foreign workers of various skill levels and provide them with permanent residence.

These pilots and others such as the Atlantic Immigration Pilot (AIP) and British Columbia’s Regional Entrepreneur Pilot address the fact many rural and smaller communities across Canada are faced with ageing populations and the outflow of younger, working-age residents to larger urban centres.

The proposed Ontario Regional Immigration Pilot follows calls by organizations in Northern Ontario for a program along the lines of the employer-driven Atlantic Immigration Pilot, which allows employers in Canada’s four Atlantic provinces — Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island — to hire foreign nationals for jobs they haven’t been able to fill locally.

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