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Expanding Our Routes To Success

The Final Report By Ontario's Expert Roundtable On Immigration

Objectives of an Immigration Strategy

Increased competition for immigrants, a changing economy, and declining immigrant outcomes lead us to conclude that an immigration strategy is critical to the province's economic future. To be successful, this strategy must rest on the foundation of a renewed federal-provincial partnership and be fuelled by enhanced employer and stakeholder engagement.

Any new approach must be clear about what it is meant to achieve. The Roundtable believes that Ontario's immigration policies and programs should do the following:

The Roundtable's overarching strategic advice and program recommendations were developed with these objectives in mind.

Overarching Strategic Advice

Based on the objectives, the Roundtable makes the following eight pieces of overarching strategic advice to the Government of Ontario:

1. Develop an immigration strategy as part of an overall economic strategy for Ontario.
Immigration is critical to Ontario's economic future and should be part of a broader economic strategy that informs all provincial programs and policies, including in areas such as education, training, infrastructure planning, and economic development. Immigration policies and programs should, for example, align with sector strategies currently under development and with the future recommendations of the new Jobs and Prosperity Council.

2. Increase alignment and coordination between programs, governments, and other actors.
Improving outcomes for immigrants requires increased engagement and better coordination of immigrant-specific and other human services across government programs and with actors including business, municipalities, community organizations, and post-secondary institutions. Enhanced program coordination will help drive other provincial goals, including economic growth and poverty reduction. A renewed partnership between the federal and Ontario governments is crucial, and the Ontario government must have a greater role in the selection of immigrants to the province to ensure that its specific needs are met.

3. Promote and leverage Ontario's existing strengths.
Ontario offers its residents a high quality of life, opportunities for social and economic mobility, diversity, democracy, rule of law, excellent primary and secondary schools, a healthy ecosystem, leading post-secondary institutions, high-quality public services, and a rich and unrivalled tapestry of immigrant communities to welcome newer immigrants. Its cities have enormous economic potential and thus provide great opportunities. The province should market these strengths within and outside of Canada to attract highly skilled immigrants.

Increased information-sharing between the federal and provincial governments would improve program coordination and policy.

4. Develop immigration policies and programs on the basis of evidence and continuous evaluation and measurement of their impact.
More and better data are required to assess programs and make informed policy decisions regarding the selection, settlement and integration of immigrants. Increased information-sharing between the federal and provincial governments would improve program coordination and policy.

Ontario also needs to better understand the skills and competency gaps it faces in both the near-term and the long-term in order to inform selection processes, attraction strategies, and training programs.

Labour market forecasting models are useful in suggesting long-term aggregate labour market needs, but they cannot be used in isolation. Governments, the private sector and other employers must better collaborate in defining and monitoring shortages and in generating accurate, timely, and forward-looking labour market data.

5. Ensure that the immigration system works for all communities across Ontario.
The Greater Toronto region is a top destination for immigrants and refugees to Canada, and a key piece of Ontario's value proposition to immigrants. Successful global city regions are important to the provincial, national, and global economies, so ensuring that the Greater Toronto region remains attractive to immigrants must be a key priority.

At the same time, immigrants are also needed in other parts of the province. Many communities offer new economic opportunities but at the same time face demographic and infrastructure challenges, such as a lack of high-speed Internet connectivity. An immigration system must be effective for communities across Ontario, including smaller urban centres, Francophone communities, and northern and rural communities. Ontario should work closely with these communities in the design and delivery of immigration programs and policies to ensure that programs satisfy their mutual needs and commitments.19

6. Consider anchoring Ontario's immigration policy, programs, and services in legislation.
The federal government may require the province to create a legislative and regulatory framework to govern its role in selection processes. This is an opportunity to enshrine Ontario's commitment to immigrant selection, settlement, and integration in legislation. Ontario's Poverty Reduction Act and the federal Multiculturalism Act have demonstrated the positive impact of such affirmations. Legislation could also establish a framework for consultation with business and other stakeholders on future planning, reporting on outcomes or target setting, and complementary amendments to other pieces of legislation, where needed. We note that other provinces are considering joining Quebec in enacting immigration legislation.

7. Reorient Ontario's vision outwards in the recognition that Ontario's future prosperity will hinge on its ability to connect globally.
Canada's prosperity in the coming decades will hinge on its ability to connect globally, which will include increasing international trade and attracting investment from abroad. It will also include acting as a hub in global exchanges of knowledge and skills. These cross-border exchanges depend on relationships: networks of people with knowledge of multiple markets, communities, and cultures.

Canada has the fifth most immigrants of any country in the world, which is remarkable given its relatively small population. If any country is well positioned to draw on the value of diaspora networks, it is Canada. The global connectivity of Canada's highly international population will be an essential ingredient in its continued prosperity. Policymakers in the Ontario and federal governments need to reorient their thinking outwards in recognition of these conclusions.

Ontario's employers must also play their part in leveraging the value of immigrants' international experience by embracing diversity and proactively developing cultural competencies in their workplace. Rather than seeing immigrants' different backgrounds, languages, and cultures as barriers to workplace integration, employers should view diversity as an advantage for competing in an increasingly globalized market and for servicing Canada's increasingly diverse population.

For Canada to remain globally competitive, we have to broaden our thinking and truly integrate skilled people who may not have Canadian experience, credentials or references. Only by taking calculated risks and being open to learning from the experiences of foreign-born workers, will Canadian companies fully capitalize on the potential for innovation and growth that comes with hiring foreign-born employees.
- Deloitte, Welcome to Canada. Now What?, 2011

8. Emphasize permanent immigration and nation building.
The success of Canada's immigration system has, in large part, rested on Canada's ability to welcome and integrate newcomers. Admitting newcomers to Canada as permanent residents, with access to services, rights, and on a clear path to citizenship, has been important for the successful integration of immigrants and their children, and a key factor in Canada's success.

Although there is a role for temporary workers to play in filling short-term labour market needs, Canada's historic commitment to nation building should be re-emphasized and its focus on permanent settlement renewed in order to meet the country's demographic and labour market needs. This renewed focus on the successful long-term integration of immigrants is particularly important for refugees, many of whom arrive in Canada with greater needs than other immigrants, and the majority of whom will continue to arrive in Ontario. The federal government should recognize the importance of making a sustained financial commitment to refugees, consistent with their needs and our collective desire for their successful long-term integration.

19 The importance of Ontario's immigration strategy to the Francophone community, for example, is clearly referenced in Chapter 2 of Ontario's French Language Services Commissioner's 2011-2011 Annual Report (http://www.flsc.gov.on.ca/files/files/fls_annual_report_2011_2012_FINALE.pdf)