Ontario’s Dominance in Decline
This much is clear; Ontario’s proportionate share of new immigrants to Canada has been in steady decline for the past few years. In 2005, about 64% of all newcomers settled in Ontario (mainly in and around Toronto) but by 2010 the number had dropped to 52%.
Is that a bad thing? I guess the answer depends on whom you ask. It’s safe to say that Mayor Ford of Toronto and many of his supporters are not losing any sleep over this relatively recent downward trend. On the other hand you have to wonder what Toronto would look like today without the major influx of international and provincial migrants over the last 30 plus years. It’s difficult to imagine any metropolis retaining its world-class stature once it ceases to be a magnet for the best and brightest.
On a practical note, the funding that the federal government provides to Ontario to help settle new arrivals has and will be adjusted according to the province’s reduced intake. In 2009/10 the amount was $390 million. In 2010/11 the sum was reduced to $346 million and next year it is projected to be lower still, at $315 million. We’re not talking about “chicken feed” here.
Ontario’s Minister of Immigration has warned that the disappearance of cash will hurt newcomers to his province but it’s difficult to find fault in the federal government’s position that settlement allocations across Canada be based on the share of newcomers that provinces and territories are able to attract. Besides, since 2005 the federal government has increased its funding to the provinces for immigration settlement almost threefold. The average per-immigrant amount that the Canadian government invests to help immigrants in the provinces outside Quebec stands at almost $3,000. By the way, Quebec has negotiated a separate funding agreement with its federal counterpart and will receive, at a minimum, in excess of $5,000 for each immigrant who settles in that province next year.
I’ll tell you where Ontario does have a legitimate beef with Mr. Harper’s government. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is to blame for the decline of immigrants to Ontario by slowing down, almost to a crawl, the processing of permanent resident visa applications submitted under the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) category prior to February 28, 2008. Most of those applicants were and are destined for Ontario. When they will arrive is anyone’s guess. CIC has indicated it hopes to work through the backlog by 2017… maybe.
This all happened because in 2008, the Federal Minister of Immigration gave himself the power to prioritize the processing of permanent resident applications. Promises were made that existing applications would not be affected. But as you won’t be shocked to learn, this commitment was not kept. CIC immediately began prioritizing applications under the various provincial nomination programs and the Canadian Experience Class while at the same time choking off the intake of new FSW applications and neglecting FSW applications already in queue.
Look, I hate to say I told you so but… see my October 2008 blog. Anyone, at the provincial level of government in Ontario who didn’t see this coming simply had his/her head buried in the sand. Section 95 of the Constitution Act, 1867 makes the provinces partners with the federal government in immigration matters. Our central government has no appetite for the continuation of an Ontario-centric immigration policy. They have made no secret of that. So again the first question for Ontarians to decide is whether or not they want to remain the destination of choice for new arrivals. If, on the whole, immigration is seen as positive then Ontario will have to do its own bidding to gain a fair share of the international talent beyond our borders.