Stephen HarperPrime Minister Stephen Harper is signalling more changes to Canada’s immigration policy are in store.

In a year-end interview on CTV, Harper said, “We’re … going to try and find ways that we can make our immigration policy more activist in nature… We’ve got to do more in the economy of the future than just passively accept applications. We have to recruit people to come to this country, particularly when there are specific skill shortages that are developing.”

Harper’s implication that Canada’s immigration policies are not activist enough come as his government over the last few years, spearheaded by Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney, have introduced changes already aimed at more closely targeting skilled immigrants for economic purposes.

Recent changes to Canadian immigration policy have included more narrowly targeting a shrinking set of specific occupations, putting caps on who can get in under those occupations, and reducing, and in some cases outright closing off, some categories of immigration–like was done by putting a two-year moratorium on sponsoring parents and grandparents under the Family Class program. While other programs have benefitted from increased numbers, for example some of the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs), which mostly facilitate immigration based on economic-criteria, have made up an ever larger proportion of the immigration to particular provinces.

The Canadian government admits that because of factors such as an aging population, and the coming wave of retirement that will soon ensue as a result, as well as a mismatch of skills between the native Canadian population and jobs that are coming online, immigration must plug the skilled labour gap which will be further exacerbated by these factors.

Harper was not specific on any changes his government would be making to current Canadian policies on immigration. However, since 2008, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has been able to adjust the rules of any immigration program by issuing a new set of Ministerial Instructions, which they have done periodically, re-prioritizing the types of immigrants eligible to come to Canada each time. Issuing another set of Ministerial Instructions in line with Harper’s comments would be a tool open to the government, which they have proved willing to do repeatedly in the last few years.