MBiz Magazine Story | Blueprint for Immigration

Jul 4, 2023 | Front Page, MBiz Magazine

The following is an excerpt from the Summer 2023 MBiz Magazine, published in collaboration with the Winnipeg Free Press.

 

BY JUDY OWEN

Jon Reyes recalls walking his dog one day when a man he didn’t know approached him.

It wasn’t a negative encounter. In fact, it was just the opposite for Manitoba’s minister of labour and immigration.

“I actually had somebody come up to me and say, ‘Minister, because of the changes that your government has made with regards to the pathways through professional development, I’ve become a full-fledged engineer,’” says Reyes, MLA for Waverley.

Hearing about the man’s positive immigration experience boosted the spirits of Reyes. “I’m very happy to see that these individuals are practising in the professions they should be,” he says. “They’re gainfully employed, contributing to our province.”

Steps toward achieving more success stories are outlined in the Immigration Advisory Council report. Released in February, the report includes recommendations to improve the province’s immigration policies and programs and to address labour shortages.

“The value of the plan is very important because we have 70 recommendations there to improve and enhance the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (MPNP),” Reyes says of the immigration program that began in 1998.

“With respect to the business community, it’s very, very important because there is a shortage of labour, a shortage of skilled labour, across the province and across the country.” The council was formed in February 2022 with a panel of 20 experts from across the province and was co-chaired by Reyes and Lloyd Axworthy, the chair of the World Refugee & Migration Council and former Canadian foreign affairs minister. It had three mandates: attracting immigrants to the province, streamlining the MPNP and enhancing settlement services.

The consultation process included stakeholders representing business, government, community and immigrants from across the province. Information was gathered through presentations, emailed submissions, online surveys and town hall meetings.

Action has already taken place on some of the recommendations, such as targeting the labour shortage in different regions of the province, Reyes says.

A pilot project is underway in Winkler and the Rural Municipality of Stanley. Through a partnership with the provincial government and the Winkler Stanley Economic Development Corp., 150 nominee spots will be allocated for the region for each year of the three-year project. Candidates will be recruited for in-demand jobs and their applications reviewed by a regional committee. If the candidate passes the review, an endorsement letter will be sent to the province recommending the person be nominated through the MPNP.

“I’m hoping it’ll be a positive pilot project and it’ll be a permanent program we can have in other parts of the province to address the labour shortage,” Reyes says. The nominee program also began sector-specific draws based on federal and provincial data, he says. For example, there have been draws this year for truck drivers, retail sales and service supervisors, technical trades and transportation officers and controllers. The council’s report pointed to the Manitoba Labour Market Outlook, which predicted the province will need 15,500 more workers per year due to retirements and deaths.

“Addressing the labour shortage, we can do it domestically; we can do it through graduates from post-secondary education, but immigration is also a key component to addressing that labour shortage as well,” Reyes says.

As part of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s multi-year allocation plan, Manitoba had its nominee program’s spaces boosted to 9,500 for this year, an increase of 3,175 from last year. “If we are going to get a significant number of allocations, we must communicate and work together with the federal government to ensure that we have the support systems in place,” Reyes says, citing housing and health care as examples.

More than 21,000 immigrants and their families landed in Manitoba last year, with 13,915 arriving through the nominee program. Other individuals came through federal immigration categories, such as federal-sponsored family, federal skilled workers and government assisted and privately sponsored refugees.

The federal government announced last November a plan to bring 500,000 newcomers to Canada in 2025, up from the 465,000 expected this year and 485,000 next year. “What I can tell the business community is that my (department) is working hard with a sense of urgency so that we can ensure that we address labour needs, through immigration in this case — and by doing that, we have to streamline the process,” Reyes says.

“(We have) 70 recommendations, really good recommendations, from our Immigration Advisory Council members. My door is always open to other suggestions on ways that we can improve the program we created here in Manitoba.”

Read the full Summer 2023 MBiz magazine here.

 

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