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Statistics Canada: Immigration plan working for Saskatchewan

 THE LEADER-POST DECEMBER 22, 2014

A  finding by Statistics Canada that shows the income gap between immigrants and Canadian-born citizens is the narrowest in Saskatchewan is related at least in part to the role played by the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP).

As Regina Chamber of Commerce CEO John Hopkins noted in a recent story, “there’s been a real focus on tying immigration to jobs that are existing … It is really about the people who have been coming here, particularly more recently, have been specifically linked to jobs that are in the economy.”

The Statistics Canada data shows that the low-income rate among “recent immigrants” – those who have been in Canada for fewer than five years – dropped to 14.7 per cent in 2010 from 37.3 per cent a decade earlier.

Meanwhile, the low-income rate among new immigrants in Saskatchewan dropped to 1.2 times that of Canadian-born citizens, while the differential ratio is 2.6 nationally.

Certainly, a booming economy in recent years, which resulted in Saskatchewan’s jobless rate being one of the lowest in the country and created a perceived labour shortage that drove up wages in some sectors, had a significant impact on narrowing the income gap. However, the role played by SINP, which gives the provincial government more control over selecting immigrants whose training and education match the needs of Saskatchewan’s labour market, cannot be understated as it ensures that they can fit seamlessly into the economy instead of facing a skills mismatch that too often sidelines and frustrates newcomers. Premier Brad Wall’s government has long been pushing its reluctant federal counterpart to increase to at least 6,000 the number of immigrants Saskatchewan can recruit under its nominee program. This year, Ottawa increased the number of spaces allocated to Saskatchewan by 51 to bring the 2014 total to 4,818 – an increase of 217 per cent since 2007. In 2015, the cap will rise to 5,500.

A point of contention has been how to accommodate relatives of SINP recruits who want to join their family in Canada.

While it’s true that immigration remains firmly within the scope of the federal government, surely it’s time for Ottawa to allow the provinces greater control over selecting the economic migrants allowed to move to their jurisdictions. The provinces are in a better position to know and understand the needs of not only the local labour market, but also the immigrants who have relocated there.

While recent rule changes have helped to better mesh the skilled worker categories with family referrals, more can be done to eliminate delays and smooth the process to allow working families to establish a comfortable social network and support system that provides stability – which helps to retain these newcomers in the province.

As the rising incomes of new immigrants and the narrowing of their wage gap with Canadian born citizens show, Saskatchewan has as much to offer newcomers as they have to offer this province. Giving Saskatchewan an even greater say in their selection would best serve everyone’s interest.

This editorial first appeared in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

© Copyright (c) The Regina Leader-Post

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