This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

Evidence of meeting #13 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was programs.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Natasha Parriag  Acting Director, Intergovernmental Relations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
David Manicom  Director General, Immigration Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Sharon Chomyn  Director General, International Region, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

It's just on an annual basis, so there's no forward-looking, labour force analysis and planning to support what the federal side is doing right now?

12:05 p.m.

Director General, Immigration Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

David Manicom

It's forward looking, sir, in the sense that we've already now finalized the plan for 2012, and in this case, we will shortly be working on a multi-year levels plan. But we would have been turning our attention toward 2013 anyway, and getting labour market analysis from HRSDC and consulting with the provinces on the trends that they are seeing.

So it's outward looking, but in the past there had been no formal attempt to establish a levels plan for three succeeding years. That's the process that we are starting with the provinces.

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

The current system that you're working with—is that with a view to driving the labour force or the mix of skills in our labour force to a certain point, or is that just about identifying shortages effectively?

12:05 p.m.

Director General, Immigration Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

David Manicom

It's a very large and nuanced process because we have a lot of large and complex programs, given the multiple objectives of the immigration act.

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

I was thinking more about the economic stream of things.

12:05 p.m.

Director General, Immigration Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

David Manicom

The economic programs are a combination of responding to—through the federal skilled worker program and the ministerial instructions element of it—at the present time, a hybrid of ensuring high overall human capital, but focusing on processing the applications of persons in occupations that are identified as being in shortage through consultations with the province and HRSDC.

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

In terms of the provincial-federal division, when you look across Canada, my sense is that there are very unique labour markets out there. So when I see the levels that we're talking about for the PNP, I'm wondering if you have a view on, or if there's any discussion about, whether the provinces—because they know their labour markets better and the uniqueness of those labour markets—should be taking more of a lead on dealing with the kind of economic and demographic issues that the program is supposed to deal with.

12:05 p.m.

Director General, Immigration Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

David Manicom

It's perhaps a question a little bit higher and broader than my role. I would only reiterate that the provincial nominee programs are now very large, and the provinces decide how to use them. In scale, they are beginning to approach the federal skilled worker program in many ways, and the current approach of the federal government is that it's important to maintain a broad national program.

Yes, we have regional economic differences, but we're also a single labour market with full internal mobility rights. Canadians migrate a great deal within the country, and more and more so. We do see a value in a large federal program that brings in generic, if you will, highly skilled people, who are by definition energetic and ambitious for their families because they're prepared to move around the world to meet their needs.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Thank you.

Welcome, Mr. Benoit, to the immigration committee. You have up to five minutes, sir.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Thank you.

And thank you for being here today.

I'm a temporary member of this committee for today, but I was the immigration critic for our party from 1997 until 2000. One of the things I did as critic was set up an immigration task force in the greater Toronto area, and I learned certain things. One of them was that a lot of people who came to Canada were trained as engineers in Pakistan, India, and elsewhere. They were professionals who came to Canada and they had been told by unscrupulous consultants that they would be able to get a job in their area of expertise right away. In fact, those are the people who are often PhDs driving cabs, that kind of thing. There was certainly a problem with that.

I'm wondering if this provincial nominee program has helped to deal with that. Would you say that most of the people who come under the provincial nominee program actually work in the types of jobs they expect to be working in?

12:10 p.m.

Director General, Immigration Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

David Manicom

I don't have specific data broken down in that way, but I think it is safe to say that the overall answer would be yes, because of the high proportion of provincial nominees who either have a specific job offer prior to arriving or who are already working in Canada.

Intuitively, yes, there would be a fairly significant difference.

December 1st, 2011 / 12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Yes, and I would expect that.

It was devastating when this happened. I had people tell me they never would have come had they known they wouldn't be working in the area they expected to be working in. But there was no going home: they had pulled up roots, there'd be the embarrassment of going back, and they left saying they wanted a better life, and all of that put together.

That makes sense, and I think this does help deal with that issue.

The second thing is, at that time about two thirds of all of the immigrants ended up in the GTA. They didn't always go there directly, but they ended up there. Has this program helped deal with that? Are there more immigrants going to the places where the need is? I would think by the nature of the program, it probably is, if in fact it is....

Can you tell me roughly...? For example, I'm from Alberta, and one of the biggest problems business has in Alberta is getting workers. I chair the natural resources committee, and Mr. Gravelle is on that committee. We hear again and again, day after day, that the biggest problem for mining companies across the country—it's not just in Alberta or the west—is getting workers.

Does this program help deal with that issue of getting immigration, of getting people who immigrate to go to where they actually are most needed?

12:10 p.m.

Director General, Immigration Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

David Manicom

Yes. The provincial nominee programs have had a fairly dramatic statistical impact, although I think they are probably also reinforcing the economic trend in the country. Twenty-six per cent of economic immigrants are now destined outside Ontario, compared to 11% in 1997. The overall proportion of immigrants outside Quebec went from 64% in 2005 to 52% in 2010. It's still very high, and still greatly to the benefit of the Province of Ontario.

I don't have the exact figures in front of me, but certainly the provinces with the greatest proportional increase in immigration in recent years have been the western provinces, particularly Manitoba because of their extremely ambitious provincial nominee program, and Alberta—both through provincial nominee programs and an increasing share of the federal programs.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

I only ask the question because by the nature of this program, it is going to do a much better job of dealing with those two issues that were there before.

In my constituency, the difficulty in getting workers is unbelievable. As you say, it's not only like that in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia, but in many areas across the country. It's to the extent that small manufacturers in my area—mostly in the oil and gas business—are actually moving their companies elsewhere because they simply can't get workers. In some cases they're moving to China. Better situations...maybe moving part of their business to Atlantic Canada, into a community where there are more workers. The need is there still for more workers.

I know there are difficulties in expanding any particular program, and you've already talked about this, but as this demand for workers becomes greater—and it will, the shortage will be more acute—do you anticipate that in the years ahead this part of the immigration system in Canada will be expanded?

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Unless Mr. Dykstra agrees, that's it.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

He can finish, Mr. Chair.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Carry on. We always let our guests carry on.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

No, it's my time. Finish the question.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Yes, you can answer the question.

12:15 p.m.

Director General, Immigration Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

David Manicom

At the present time the federal government doesn't foresee further increases in scale of the provincial nominee program unless or until there is an overall increase in immigration levels. As you know, we've had a vigorous national debate on that issue over the past month when Minister Kenney was doing his consultations. It's probably about the larger discussion of how large the immigration program should be overall. And of course—this is outside of my remit but it's a broader, socio-economic program for the country—we do have 14% youth unemployment. We do have persistent unemployment in many areas of the country. I think it's not only immigration that has something to say to help resolve those problems.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Thank you, sir.

My Dykstra, you have four minutes.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Thank you.

I appreciate your being here today. It's been very helpful and enlightening.

I'm looking at the chart that indicates where all the provinces stand, where things started, and where the growth has occurred, especially over the last three or four years. I'm struck by the fact that there isn't really any strategy, and this is why I would like it explained to folks. We've got a province like Manitoba where 77% of their immigration comes from the provincial nominee program. Then you have a province like Ontario, which is literally ten times the size and only 1.29% of its immigrants come from the provincial nominee program. Is there any discussion around why there is such a disparity between a province like Manitoba and a province like Ontario? The amounts are obviously not set on a per capita basis. They're set based on the requests you receive from the provinces.

Could you elaborate a little bit on that?

12:15 p.m.

Director General, Immigration Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

David Manicom

I think it will be a pressing issue going forward. Until very recently, provincial nominee programs simply grew based on the province's own requests, so the federal government was responsive to provincial requests. Although there's a disparity between Manitoba and Ontario with regard to the provincial nominee programs, if we look at overall immigration there is also a disparity but in the opposite direction. Provinces that are receiving fewer immigrants, naturally, if you will, or through federal programs, are obviously much more motivated to put considerable provincial resources—and it's a big provincial resource outlay for provinces with large programs—into provincial nominee programs. Provinces that are receiving lots of immigrants aren't so inclined. When the provincial nominee programs got to such a size that within the overall levels framework we had to start to manage their growth, we had existing provincial nominee programs.... The current allocation generally reflects the history of provincial nominee programs. Fundamentally, relooking at that allocation formula is not something that's happening right now, but I'm sure it will be a discussion piece around the federal-provincial table as we go forward with a multi-year levels planning process.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

What strikes me about this, and perhaps I'll get you to comment quickly on it, is.... You're right that there's a larger base of immigrants who come to Ontario, but over the last five years that's declined from 64% to 52% of the overall immigration levels. We're seeing Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Prince Edward Island picking up the slack. They're being aggressive, and they're showing, particularly with this program, how they can use it to their advantage.

Is that type of discussion happening with provinces like Ontario and Quebec, which seem to be lagging very far behind in terms of their approach to the program?

12:15 p.m.

Director General, Immigration Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

David Manicom

I just want to clarify that Quebec isn't a participant in the provincial nominee program because of their selection authorities under the Canada-Quebec accord. They are in fact a very high immigrant-receiving province, about 44,000 on an order of scale, I believe, last year. We can provide corrected numbers if I got that wrong.

Ontario to some extent has been a different case because of its historical role as the magnet for the large majority of immigrants to Canada. Although British Columbia now has a fairly large provincial nominee program, for many years they also didn't because the Lower Mainland was attracting large numbers of immigrants.

Your question was whether there is discussion about that. There certainly is a very lively discussion between provincial and federal officials, and also at the ministerial level. The outcome of those discussions are federal-provincial discussions that are, again, a little bit above my head.