Home > Key Services > Ontario's Immigration Strategy > Expanding Our Routes To Success

Expanding Our Routes To Success

The Final Report By Ontario's Expert Roundtable On Immigration


Program Recommendations: Selection

How Many Immigrants Does Ontario Want? Who Should They Be?

1. Over the long-term, the level of immigration to Ontario should be increased to at least one per cent of its population, or 135,000 people per year. At least 65 to 70 per cent of these immigrants should be economic class immigrants.
Current immigration levels to Ontario are too low. The level of immigration to Ontario should be increased to at least one per cent of its population, or 135,000 people per year, over the long-term. The level should be periodically adjusted to suit overall economic conditions and the capacity of the labour market to absorb newcomers. This target is consistent with recent norms. In 2001, 2002, and 2005, immigrant landings in Ontario exceeded the 135,000 mark. Ontario received just 99,000 immigrants in 2011.

Ontario's future prosperity will depend on its ability to strategically increase its working age population, which is set to decline in the upcoming decades, without immigration. While immigration alone will not be the answer to Ontario's looming demographic challenges, it will be a key component of a larger strategy to sustain the province's workforce.

The long-term success of Ontario's economy also depends on attracting a higher proportion of immigrants who are selected on the basis of their ability to contribute economically. The proportion of economic class immigrants to Ontario should be increased to 65 to 70 per cent of all immigrants to Ontario.

An increase in overall immigration and a proportional increase in the number of economic class immigrants to Ontario would result in a younger, more productive, and more innovative population that can contribute to the economy and better address existing and looming labour shortages.

As long as the overall number of immigrants to Ontario goes up, an increase in the share of economic class immigrants will not result in a decrease in other classes. Family class immigrants are often productive contributors to the economy and play an important role in the success of working immigrants and nation building. Ontario also values the many benefits of being a destination of choice for refugees. Maintaining a balanced commitment to all classes of immigrants will reflect Ontario's values and humanitarian commitments.

Bar Chart and Line Graph (all figures are estimates)<br/>
1980: Canadian Landings at 150,000, Ontario Landings at 60,000. Ontario landings are approximately 45% of Canadian landings.<br/>
1983: Canadian Landings at 90,000, Ontario Landings at 50,000. Ontario landings are approximately 47% of Canadian landings.<br/>
1986: Canadian Landings at 100,000, Ontario Landings at 50,000. Ontario landings are approximately 50% of Canadian landings.<br/>
1989: Canadian Landings at 190,000, Ontario Landings at 105,000. Ontario landings are approximately 55% of Canadian landings.<br/>
1992: Canadian Landings at just over 250,000, Ontario Landings at 140,000. Ontario landings are approximately 56% of Canadian landings.<br/>
1995: Canadian Landings at 220,000, Ontario Landings at 125,000. Ontario landings are approximately 57% of Canadian landings.<br/>
1998: Canadian Landings at 180,000, Ontario Landings at just under 100,000. Ontario landings are approximately 57% of Canadian landings.<br/>
2001: Canadian Landings at 250,000, Ontario Landings at 150,000. Ontario landings are approximately 60% of Canadian landings.<br/>
2004: Canadian Landings at 240,000, Ontario Landings at 125,000. Ontario landings are approximately 53% of Canadian landings.<br/>
2007: Canadian Landings at 240,000, Ontario Landings at 110,000. Ontario landings are approximately 47% of Canadian landings.<br/>
2010: Canadian Landings at 280,000, Ontario Landings at 115,000. Ontario landings are approximately 40% of Canadian landings.

2. Selection processes should be fair, transparent, and facilitate diversity in the mix of immigrant source countries.
Ethnic diversity enhances the Canadian economy and our communities. It is one of the major reasons why many immigrants choose to settle and stay in the country. Canada's prosperity in the coming decades will hinge on its ability to increase international trade and attract foreign investment. Canada's immigrants give it a distinct advantage in establishing and accessing global markets and trade networks.

To fully capitalize on Canada's diversity advantage, selection policies and practices should be designed to avoid ethno-cultural bias and ensure even treatment for immigrants, regardless of source country. This could include ensuring that visa offices and services are accessible to potential immigrants across the globe, and establishing a monitoring and reporting system to ensure that new initiatives are consistent with this objective.

Newcomers complement the skills of the domestic labour force, bring new investment and innovative practices, help to open trade routes with their countries of origin and enhance cultural diversity.
- Craig Alexander et al., Knocking Down Barriers Faced by New Immigrants to Canada,TD Economics, 2012

A Human Capital Emphasis for Ontario

3. Economic immigrants should be selected based on criteria
that emphasize human capital, rather than current occupation. It is in Ontario's best interest that immigrants be selected on the basis of their human capital.

Recent federal policy shifts, such as the use of priority occupation lists for the Federal Skilled Worker Program, have weakened the human capital model by emphasizing more narrow criteria in the selection of economic immigrants.

Fewer immigrants arriving through the Federal Skilled Worker Program and a net decrease in the number of economic immigrants arriving to the province means that a higher proportion of individuals not selected on the basis of their human capital, such as family and humanitarian immigrants, are coming to Ontario.

Ontario's knowledge economy is complex and diverse, requiring a dynamic and highly skilled labour force. Citizenship and Immigration Canada's 2010 evaluation of the Federal Skilled Worker Program showed that immigrants who are selected for their human capital do better economically than those selected on the basis of occupation. Immigrants with high levels of human capital are also better able to adapt to changes in the economy and the labour market.

An emphasis on human capital will strengthen Canada over the longterm. The Roundtable's strong belief in the importance of re-emphasizing human capital underlies recommendations in this paper.

Immigrants do best when they come to Canada with human capital...Although immigrants overall are doing more poorly than previous cohorts, skilled worker principal applicants continue to achieve the highest income levels of all immigrant categories because the point system assesses them for human capital.
- Naomi Alboim and Maytree, Adjusting the Balance, Maytree, 2009

The Federal Skilled Worker Program

4. A revamped Federal Skilled Worker Program should continue to be the main source of economic immigration to Ontario.
The Federal Skilled Worker Program is currently the best program for bringing in immigrants with high potential for long-term economic success. Consistent with the recommendation on prioritizing human capital in selection, the Federal Skilled Worker Program should continue to be the main source of economic immigration to Ontario. The Federal Skilled Worker Program has served Ontario well. Principal applicants through this program tend to have higher levels of education, better official language capacity, and better economic outcomes than immigrants arriving through other streams.

In recent years, the effectiveness of this program has been hampered by a growing backlog of applications, long delays in processing, the introduction of narrow lists of priority occupations, and inadequate weight accorded to those in the skilled trades. All of these changes have contributed to the decline in economic immigration to Ontario through the Federal Skilled Worker Program. The recent federal announcement introducing a skilled trades stream within the program is a welcomed development.

Bar Chart by Province<br/>
Nunavut 8%, Northwest Territories 14%, Ontario, 17%, British Columbia 19%, Alberta 24%, Nova Scotia 26%, New Brunswick 27%, Prince Edward Island 29%,<br/>
Newfoundland and Labrador 29%, Manitoba 30%, Quebec 31%, Saskatchewan 33%, Yukon 49%,<br/><br/> 
Chart shows an average of 27% outside Ontario.

5. The priority occupations list for the Federal Skilled Worker Program should be eliminated.
Ontario should seek the elimination of the priority occupations list in the Federal Skilled Worker Program.20 This list was established to control intake and reduce the backlog of applicants to the program. This work has been done. In light of the federal government's current actions to eliminate and better manage the Federal Skilled Worker Program application backlog, the rationale for a priority occupations list is substantially weakened.

The list is too static to respond to the realities and dynamics of Ontario's labour market. To the extent that Canada wishes to target particular occupational categories, it should do so through programs explicitly designed for this purpose, such as the Provincial Nominee and Temporary Foreign Worker programs (see recommendation #9), and based on up-to-date labour market information from employers and other sources.

The Roundtable recognizes that other provinces may have different labour market needs that should be accommodated. But this should not be done by weakening the design of the program that best serves Ontario's and, in the longer term, Canada's interests.

6. The Governments of Canada and Ontario should work in partnership on the design and operation of the new Expression of Interest (EOI) model.
The federal government has recently announced its intention to introduce a new approach to selecting economic immigrants: the Expression of Interest model.

In the Expression of Interest model, candidates express an interest in immigrating and are pre-screened against a set of criteria; those who pass are placed into a pool for possible selection. Candidates selected from the pool by employers or by governments acting on guidance from employers are then invited to submit a full application. Non-selected applicants are periodically removed from the pool, with the opportunity to reapply. Depending on eventual program design for Canada, applicants with a job offer may be fast-tracked through a parallel federal stream or through a provincial territorial selection program. Importantly, the federal government is required to process only those applications selected from the pool.

The Expression of Interest model is a promising opportunity to enhance the flexibility, responsiveness, and speed of economic immigration to Canada, with the potential to focus on top talent and human capital. By controlling intake, the model is expected to provide greater flexibility in adjusting selection criteria to respond to changing conditions. For example, it could result in the elimination of the priority occupations list or in an expanded list that reflects regional economic needs. If properly implemented, the EOI model may combine the best of human capital selection criteria, so important to Ontario and Canada, with responsiveness to short-term labour market needs.

The Government of Ontario can help ensure that the model's promise is realized by collaborating with the federal government and other provinces and territories in its design and implementation, perhaps including hosting a pilot. In particular, the Ontario government should ensure that it includes an emphasis on human capital and diversity among source countries.

By collaborating in the design of the EOI, the Ontario government will have greater influence on the selection of immigrants.

7. The Government of Ontario needs to engage employers and municipalities in identifying labour market needs and challenges.
The development of the Canadian Expression of Interest model may result in provinces, municipalities, and employers playing more prominent roles in economic immigrant selection, beyond the Provincial Nominee Program and the Temporary Foreign Worker Agreement. The Government of Ontario should engage employers and municipalities to identify specific labour market needs and challenges, paying particular attention to small- and medium-sized enterprises.

This should be accomplished through two-way conversations with employers, regional and local governments, Local Immigration Partnerships, sector associations, chambers of commerce, and others. Employers, in particular, must be encouraged to identify and communicate labour market needs.

Retaining and Integrating Students
The VALOA project, led by the University of Helsinki, has joined 19 universities, city councils, and entrepreneur organizations to create a framework to transition international students into the local market. The project started in the Helsinki metropolitan area in 2009 and is specifically targeting small and medium size enterprises that are internationalizing and growing.

Leveraging Canadian Experience

8. Efforts should be made through the Canadian Experience Class program to retain individuals who have experience working and studying in Ontario.
Individuals who have experience working and studying in Canada have demonstrated their ability to contribute and participate in Canadian life and are thus more likely to achieve long-term success in Ontario's labour market.21

As Canada's top destination for foreign students and skilled temporary foreign workers, Ontario is well-positioned to retain these individuals and leverage their Ontario experience.

Introduced in 2008, the federal Canadian Experience Class program fast-tracks permanent residency applications of skilled temporary foreign workers and international students who have studied and worked in Canada on temporary permits or student visas.

Data suggest that the program could be better leveraged to provide skilled foreign workers and international students with pathways to permanent residence. Ontario should take a more proactive approach to making participants aware of the opportunities presented by the Canadian Experience Class, and also do the following:

Filling Immediate Labour Shortages

9. Selecting economic immigrants based on occupational and other narrow criteria should be done only on a limited basis.
Although economic immigrants should be selected primarily on the basis of human capital, Ontario will continue to require immigrants and temporary workers to address specific short-term labour market needs, which can vary from year to year.

The Provincial Nominee Program and programs targeted at temporary foreign workers should complement and be highly coordinated with the rest of the immigration system. They should also maintain a focus on longer term economic priorities, strengthening Ontario's human capital, and nation building. Wherever appropriate, temporary foreign workers should have access to pathways to permanent residency.

Opportunities Ontario: Provincial Nominee Program

10. Ontario's Provincial Nominee Program should be used to respond to specific occupational shortages and to the needs of communities, including Francophone and rural communities.
The Opportunities Ontario: Provincial Nominee Program allows Ontario to nominate individuals and their families for permanent resident status based on a pre-approved job offer or graduation with a Master's or PhD degree from an Ontario university. This enables the province to quickly fill specific gaps in the labour market by giving Ontario employers the ability to identify and select the workers they need and to retain graduates to respond to Ontario's changing economy.

It is evident that the Provincial Nominee Program has moved beyond its initial pilot phase (it is currently subject to periodic renewal), as it has proven its value in addressing province-specific labour needs. The Provincial Nominee Program should be given some permanency, either as a distinct program or as a complementary program to the new Expression of Interest model.

The Provincial Nominee Program should also continue to be used, in part, to target economic immigrants who meet the specific needs of Ontario employers and populations, such as rural and Francophone communities.

Unless the cap on the Provincial Nominee Program is increased (see recommendation #11), it should not be used to nominate individuals who can apply through other, more suitable programs. For example, international students without a job offer should be encouraged to apply for permanent residency through the Canadian Experience Class (see recommendation #8).

11. The Government of Canada should raise the cap on Ontario's Provincial Nominee Program from its current level of 1,000 to 5,000 people per year.
The Provincial Nominee Program was introduced in Ontario as a pilot program in 2007, with an annual target of 500 nominees. Since then, the federal government has increased Ontario's annual nominee cap marginally to 1,000. This is a very small number relative to Ontario's population and volume of immigration. It is also significantly lower than in many other provinces, where annual caps have been set at up to 5,000 per year.

The cap on Ontario's Provincial Nominee Program should be raised from its current level of 1,000 to 5,000. Ontario cannot address its specific labour shortages for skilled workers through this program under the current cap. Given that other provinces are now attracting a greater share of immigrants, the rationale for keeping Ontario's provincial nominee cap relatively low has disappeared.

This increase should be done in conjunction with an overall increase in the level of immigration to Ontario, and with the recognition that a revampedFederal Skilled Worker Program will be the main source of immigration to Ontario. Undertaken as a package, these increases should not result in a decrease in family or humanitarian immigrants.

Bar Chart by Province<br/>
Yukon 0.0054%, Manitoba 0.0039%, Saskatchewan 0.0038%, Northwest Territories 0.0034%, Prince Edward Island 0.0027%, Alberta 0.0013%, New Brunswick 0.0008%, British Columbia 0.0007%, Newfoundland and Labrador 0.0006%, Nova Scotia 0.0005%, Ontario 0.00007%

12. The Federal Skilled Worker Backlog Reduction Pilot should be extended to 2014 and expanded.
The Federal Skilled Worker Backlog Reduction Pilot Program is a joint initiative of the Governments of Canada and Ontario. It was created to help the federal government reduce the Federal Skilled Worker Program backlog while temporarily enabling Ontario to select highly skilled immigrants from the backlog to fill specific gaps in key areas of its labour market.

Under this program, Ontario can nominate an additional 600 applicants in five priority occupations to apply through its Provincial Nominee Program. These applicants are to be drawn from the Federal Skilled Worker Program backlog of applications submitted before February 2008.

The successful pilot program expires in November 2012. This partnership should be extended to 2014 and the target increased so that Ontario can continue to fast-track high-potential nominees from applicants awaiting processing.

Enhancing the Temporary Foreign Worker Program

13. The Federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program should focus on recruiting high-skilled workers and workers in the skilled trades and facilitating the rapid filling of temporary vacancies.*

*This does not apply to workers under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.

Roundtable members have heard suggestions that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is distorting the labour market by providing employers with access to foreign labour willing to work at below market wages. There is also a concern that, after living and working in Canada for years, some of these individuals will overstay their visas and become undocumented workers.

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program should complement and be well-integrated with the rest of the immigration system.

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program should complement and be well-integrated with the rest of the immigration system. The program should renew its focus on high-skilled workers and rapidly filling temporary vacancies, and should be leveraged to nimbly attract top talent. It should not be used to bring low-skilled workers into the labour market other than in limited circumstances where there is clear evidence that all domestic labour options have been exhausted.

14. Ontario should make better use of the Temporary Foreign Worker Agreement to accomplish its objectives under recommendation #13.
The Temporary Foreign Worker Agreement allows Ontario to select and facilitate work permits for temporary foreign workers who can help advance Ontario's economic development priorities. It allows selected Ontario employers to bypass the federal Labour Market Opinion process involved in hiring high-skilled temporary foreign workers. While used infrequently to date (about three times for 30 workers), the Agreement is broad in scope and unlimited in number, making it a powerful tool for Ontario to admit high-skilled temporary workers.

The Agreement is administered by the Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation, which is developing a framework to guide its usage. Ontario should scale up efforts to promote and use the Agreement more frequently and to do so strategically so that businesses and other employers get the top talent they need to effectively compete with their international peers. The Agreement should be closely coordinated with the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigrationto maximize its benefit to the province.

15. Ontario needs more information about temporary foreign workers.
The federal government collects detailed information about temporary foreign workers in Canada. This information, however, is not shared with provincial authorities.

Ontario and the federal government should enter into an information sharing agreement with regard to data on temporary foreign workers. The Government of Ontario should also work to better share available information among its ministries.

Better information about temporary foreign workers would enable Ontario to more effectively calibrate its economic and labour market strategies and to more accurately inform federal economic immigration programs.

Increased information-sharing would also help strengthen protections for temporary foreign workers (see recommendation #16) and address the challenges associated with undocumented workers (see recommendation #17).

16. Protections for temporary foreign workers should be strengthened to prevent abuse and unsafe working conditions.
Low-skilled temporary foreign workers are among Canada's most vulnerable individuals when it comes to abuse and poor conditions in the workplace.

While temporary foreign workers are generally covered by the same employment rights that apply to Canadians and permanent residents, they may not be aware of or assert these rights because they lack experience with the Canadian legal and social systems, face language barriers, are subjected to misleading employer-provided information, or self-censor to protect their jobs and avoid threats of deportation.23

While the federal government regulates the entry and stay of temporary foreign workers, it is the provinces that provide work-related protections to the majority of these workers. Both governments share a commitment and a responsibility for protecting temporary foreign workers. It is possible that better sharing of information could assist in monitoring the working conditions of these immigrants.

The Ontario government should continue to increase its proactive efforts to seek out and provide temporary foreign workers and their employers with information about their workplace rights.

17. The issue of undocumented workers should be addressed by both the Governments of Ontario and Canada.
Undocumented workers are individuals who are not authorized to be present in Canada. They are typically failed refugee claimants who do not report for removal from Canada, visitors or foreign workers who remain in Canada after the expiry of their visa, or individuals who enter Canada without authorization.

Estimates of the number of undocumented workers range widely. It is estimated that the majority of these individuals reside in the Greater Toronto region. While undocumented workers contribute to Ontario's labour market, particularly in certain sectors such as construction, they may also depress wage growth, provide unfair competitive advantage for some businesses, and negatively impact the employment prospects for permanent residents and Canadian citizens. Undeclared income may also cost governments billions of dollars in lost revenue.

People without legal status and their families are also vulnerable because they may be exploited and may have very limited access to healthcare, social services, and settlement services.

Ontario should work with the federal government to address the challenges associated with an underground, undocumented workforce. The following actions should be considered:

18. The Government of Canada should maintain and strengthen the Live-In Caregiver Program.
Live-In Caregivers respond to the need of many Ontario families for in-home care for children, seniors, and people with disabilities. This need is likely to grow given our aging population and the necessity of alternatives to institutionalized care. Although there have been some problems with the Live-in Caregiver Program, the Roundtable considers it a success and urges the federal government to continue and strengthen it.

Consideration should be given to granting program participants access to settlement services upon arrival and faster routes to family reunification and permanent resident status (as opposed to after two years of employment), to better reflect the shared interest of Ontario and participants in permanent settlement. Consideration should also be given to the live-in requirement, and whether additional options would better meet the needs of Ontario families and their caregivers.

Live-In Caregivers respond to the need of many Ontario families for in-home care for children, seniors, and people with disabilities.

Attracting More Entrepreneurs

19. Ontario should attract and retain more international entrepreneurs.
Immigrant entrepreneurs strengthen Ontario's economy by creating jobs and injecting innovative ideas into businesses, products, and services. They bring new knowledge to Canadian business communities and offer opportunities to access overseas business and trade networks.24

Immigrant entrepreneurs are also among the most sought after individuals in the world. The federal government's commitment to revamp the immigration program for foreign entrepreneurs (i.e. the "start-up" visa) is an important step in proactively targeting these global business leaders.

Ontario should take a leadership role in piloting programs to attract and retain immigrant entrepreneurs. The federal government has expressed an interest in piloting a number of small, short-term programs to attract entrepreneurs. As Canada's largest hub for global business, research, and financial services institutions, Ontario can provide immigrant entrepreneurs with the opportunities and supports that are necessary for success.

Attracting immigrant entrepreneurs should be a component of the Government of Ontario's Open for Business strategy, which aims to make the province more attractive to businesses and entrepreneurs. Through this strategy, Ontario should identify ways in which its policies and business incubators can support the attraction and retention of immigrant entrepreneurs and collaborate with the federal government in piloting "start-up" visa programs.25

Startup Act 2.0
A bipartisan group of American senators recently unveiled a bill aimed at improving the environment for entrepreneurs to create and expand businesses, and create jobs across the United States. The Startup Act 2.0 would retain international students graduating from American universities with Masters or PhD degrees in specific fields. The Act would also create an entrepreneur visa allowing immigrants to stay in the United States as long as they start a business that employs Americans. The Act would also eliminate the per-country cap for employment-based immigrant visas, which currently limits American companies' ability to recruit international top talent.

20. The Government of Ontario should develop a marketing and promotion strategy to attract immigrants with high levels of human capital to the province.
There are many reasons why Ontario is among the premier destinations for immigrants. To compete in the global market for human capital, the province must take the proactive lead in attracting the best and brightest individuals to settle within its boundaries.

Ontario should develop a marketing and promotion strategy to attract immigrants with the skills that Ontario needs to drive its economy. The strategy should be brand-focused, savvy, and tightly integrated within the province's international post-secondary recruitment and economic development efforts. It should also leverage and complement the impending recommendations from the Advisory Panel on Canada's International Education Strategy and the Jobs and Prosperity Council.

This strategy should target potential immigrants on two fronts: internationally, by promoting Ontario as the preferred destination for potential immigrants in their home countries; and domestically, by raising awareness of immigration options available to temporary residents already working in Ontario. The marketing and promotion strategy should also focus on equipping Ontario residents with information they can share with prospective immigrants among their families, friends, and associates.


20 The priority occupations list was introduced by Citizenship and Immigration Canada in a set of Ministerial Instructions in 2008, which removed the obligation to process all Federal Skilled Worker applications and included a list of 38 priority occupations for expedited processing. In June 2010, the occupation list was reduced to 29 occupations with an overall cap of 20,000 applicants and 1,000 per occupation.

21 Immigrants landing in Ontario through the Canadian Experience Class demonstrate both the highest average reported employment earnings ($57,401) and the highest incidence of reported employment earnings (92 per cent, the same as Live-in Caregivers) (Longitudinal Immigration Database, 2009).

22 This approach complements Opportunities Ontario: Provincial Nominee Program, which should maintain its focus on international students with job offers or those who are graduating with a Masters or PhD degree from an Ontario university, as they are valuable sources of highly skilled professionals who are expected to significantly contribute to Ontario's economic growth.

23 Nakache, D. and P.J. Kinoshita. 2010. The Canadian Temporary Foreign Worker Program: So Short-Term Economic Needs Prevail over Human Rights Concerns? May 2010. Montreal: IRPP. http://www.irpp.org/pubs/irppstudy/irpp_study_no5.pdf.

24 Downie, M. 2010. Immigrants as Innovators: Boosting Canada's Global Competitiveness. Ottawa: Conference Board of Canada. http://kaimeramedia.com/peelnewcomer//images/articles/11-074-immigrantsasinnovators-web.pdf.

25 Citizenship and Immigration Canada. 2012. "News Release - Minister Kenney launches consultations for a new ‘start-up visa' for immigrant entrepreneurs." http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/releases/2012/2012-04-18.asp.


Contents