New details of his vision for the program have been provided by the head of one of the main organizations pushing for an immigration pilot for Ontario’s northern regions.
Charles Cirtwill, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Northern Policy Institute, detailed a number of key issues that he said the pilot must address in a column published this week.
For one, Cirtwill said it is essential that the pilot reflects the fact labour needs in smaller, rural communities are typically different from those in urban centres.
Cirtwill said, “My colleagues at the Northern Policy Institute (NPI) have found that 7 of the 10 jobs in demand in Northern Ontario, based on the number of vacancies posted, were ‘middle-skilled’ jobs in National Occupational Classification codes C or D.”
Canada’s National Occupational Classification (NOC) organizes more than 30,000 occupations according to skill level and skill type. Skill levels C and D include semi and low skilled occupations in the trades, primary and manufacturing industries, sales and services, and some clerical and assist categories.
Cirtwill says the pilot must also recognize the fact that labour needs in Northern Ontario can vary from community to community- “some need tourism staff, other need truck drivers, office support staff or skilled trades.”
Accordingly, the pilot program should allow for a broad range of foreign labour while placing a hard cap on any specific job classification.
1,500 new immigrants a year
With regard to how many immigrants the proposed pilot should welcome on an annual basis, Cirtwill said, various regions that make up Northern Ontario need at least 1,500 new immigrants a year to have a sustainable mix of working age population to dependents (under 19 and over 65).
This target assumes full employment among current residents, including Northern Ontario’s Indigenous People, he said.
He further said planners would also have to establish sub-targets to ensure that each region covered by the pilot receives its fair share of newcomers. This would ensure that Northern Ontario’s ‘Big Five’ communities- North Bay, Timmins, Thunder Bay, Sudbury, and Sault Ste. Marie- do not fall among the only beneficiaries of the pilot program.
Other key considerations are the project’s duration and the need for proper oversight and monitoring. A minimum of 3 to 5 years would allow for the collection of ‘sound data,” Cirtwill argued, adding that immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) must prioritize “releasing better and timelier data.”
Cirtwill’s column follows meetings in August which resulted in bringing together business and community leaders from Northern Ontario with Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen.
The Northern Policy Institute and others are hoping that Hussen and IRCC will approve a pilot program for Ontario’s rural and remote regions along the lines of Atlantic Immigration Program, which was introduced the previous year to fill semi-skilled and skilled labour shortages in Canada’s Atlantic Provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island.
At the moment, Minister Hussen said his department is studying the possibility, but a better understanding of the region’s specific needs is required.
Minister Hussen said, “Just like in Atlantic Canada, if we’re going to proceed with that, we want to have a program conceivably that is very much tailored to the local needs of the regions and also a program that is really designed by the stakeholders in Northern Ontario, as opposed to the government in Ottawa.”