Provincial program sees record number of qualified immigrants applying to Manitoba

Former Canada Secretary of State Lloyd Axworthy, left, and Manitoba Labor Immigration Minister Jon Reyes served on the province's Immigration Advisory Board, which released a report with 70 recommendations to encourage immigration.  (CBC - photo credit)

Former Canada Secretary of State Lloyd Axworthy, left, and Manitoba Labor Immigration Secretary Jon Reyes served on the province’s Immigration Advisory Board, which released a report with 70 recommendations to encourage immigration. (CBC – photo credit)

In Manitoba, a record number of skilled immigrants were nominated to come to the province last year. However, some experts say the figure should be much higher, and a report published on Tuesday outlines about 70 ways the government can make the application and resettlement process for newcomers smoother.

From a pool of 13,030 candidates, a total of 6,367 immigrants were nominated through the provincial nomination program in 2022, the highest number since its inception in 1998, according to Jon Reyes, Manitoba’s Secretary of Labor Immigration.

“With immigration being a key component of our work plan, Manitoba continues to do its utmost to welcome newcomers to grow our economy, increase our prosperity and enrich our communities,” Reyes said at a news conference Tuesday.

The surge coincides with an influx of Ukrainian refugees relocating to the province due to the war with Russia. It also happened as some labor markets struggled to find workers to fill vacancies.

Reyes said about 18 percent of last year’s nominees chose to settle outside of Winnipeg, primarily in Neepawa, Brandon, Steinbach, Morden, Winkler and Thompson.

Transportation truck drivers, food court attendants, cooks, food counter attendants and industrial butchers were among the top job categories for applicants to the province’s nominee program.

Immigration Recommendations

The province’s Immigration Advisory Council (IAC) also released its first report Tuesday on efforts to attract and retain a skilled workforce.

Established last year, the council is made up of 22 representatives from a range of sectors and serves as an expert panel to recommend ways to improve provincial immigration policies and programs. Co-chaired by Reyes and Lloyd Axworthy, Canada’s former foreign minister.

The report lists 70 recommendations based on information from 10 town halls and a survey of 300 people.

With regard to recruitment, the IAC report points out that current efforts are not keeping up with the demands of the labor market.

In terms of numbers, the province is tied to “limited allotments” controlled by the federal government, Reyes said, noting that about 65 percent of immigrants who come to Manitoba do so through the province’s nominee program. About 75 percent of Manitoba candidates remained in the province five years later, according to Statistics Canada.

The program cap was set at 6,367 in 2022, up from 6,275 in 2021, according to the report.

Reyes said he has asked Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Enforcement officials to increase Manitoba’s annual immigrant allocation to 10,000 or more.

Axworthy believes the allocation should be even higher “to provide the kind of momentum, growth and contribution that can be made”.

Last fall, the federal government announced plans to welcome 500,000 immigrants to Canada annually by 2025. Axworthy said this should result in Manitoba taking in about 20,000 a year.

Axworthy suggested that colleges, agencies and organizations representing professionals need to start showing more “openness” to recognizing credentials from internationally trained and educated immigrants who “have the same skills to do it here”.

concerns expressed

According to the report, the council heard complaints about processing times for candidate applications, particularly at the federal level. Additionally, some people would like a review of the points system for the province’s nominee program.

Some people interviewed for the report suggested that certain applicants should be given expedited access to Manitoba based on whether they’ve already accepted jobs, have expressed a willingness to relocate anywhere outside of Winnipeg, a family in the province to have or most in need of work or education in local economic sectors.

Although applicants are already ranked according to these categories in the nomination points-based system, respondents said that greater weight should be given to applicants with backgrounds or skills that Manitoba needs most.

It was also suggested that language skills could be relaxed for those with skills in labor markets where language skills are inherently lower.

The report also recommends making it easier for international students to settle permanently in Manitoba, particularly in rural areas.

Regarding settlement and retention, three-quarters of respondents responding to a council survey called for centralized communication hubs to act as one-stop shops for settlement resources, including housing and employment. Winnipeg created such a center for Ukrainian newcomers last year.

Manitoba also needs to ramp up its marketing efforts to attract more immigrants, the report said.

To that end, Manitoba plans to send staff to the Philippines to recruit more internationally-trained nurses for the province, according to a press release.

“Their voices have been heard,” Reyes said.


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