The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has released an internal memo outlining various findings from its 2020 consultations with stakeholders on the Municipal Nominee Program (MNP). The Liberal Party of Canada initially stated that the MNP would be introduced during the 2019 federal election campaign. The MNP was highlighted as a significant goal in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s two mandate letters to Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino after the Liberals won in the 2019 election.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus outbreak keeps getting in the way, so the Liberals have promised to finally introduce the MNP during the recent 2021 election campaign, which they have already won. Even with Liberals poised to introduce their cabinet on October 26, Parliament slated to reconvene on November 22, and the worst of the virus outbreak is presumably behind Canada. So now, the route appears smoother for the government to follow through on this pledge.
The MNP’s goal is to create a more equitable distribution of immigrants throughout smaller Canadian municipalities. The IRCC and Canada’s provinces and territories have made a concerted effort to attract and retain more immigrants in smaller jurisdictions since the 1990s. This will aid in the recruitment of more workers to support economies throughout Canada as people age and retire. Thanks to the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), Quebec’s unique immigration system, and, more subsequently, measures such as the Atlantic Immigration Pilot (AIP), Canada has been most effective in fostering regionalization.
Except for Nunavut, each province and territory has economic class immigration schemes that enable candidates to hire permanent residents with the skills needed to meet their jurisdiction’s labor market demands. Prior to the implementation of the PNP in 1998, up to 85% of all new immigrants to Canada settled in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia. With the implementation of the PNP and subsequent regionalization programs, this number has fallen to roughly 70%. This has allowed provinces like Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador to get a larger percentage of Canadian immigration.
Before launching a new program, the IRCC consults with stakeholders like province and local governments, researchers, immigrant-serving groups, employers, and immigration lawyers. Although a widely accepted issue persists is the majority of immigrants prefer to reside in the province’s largest cities. Smaller cities and villages continue to experience difficulties in attracting newcomers. The MNP wants to contribute to addressing this issue. IRCC consults with these experts on how to establish new immigration programs.
According to the memo, IRCC planned to undertake in-person consultations in 2020 but was forced to switch to virtual consultations in spring/summer 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the majority of partners, retention is the most crucial success metric. This is significant because newly arrived immigrants have the right to live wherever they want in Canada. To profit from immigration, a town must provide work opportunities and a welcoming environment to make immigrants feel at home.
The IRCC posed questions to stakeholders on what a successful MNP may look like, how and when to identify towns that will participate in the MNP, what responsibility each important stakeholder might perform in guaranteeing the MNP achieves its objectives, and how to encourage settlement and retention.
The primary lesson from the MNP success conversation for IRCC was that the MNP should aim to expand immigration to underserved places with labor shortages while also ensuring participating municipalities have the capabilities they need to retain new immigrants. Almost 80% of respondents indicated labor shortages should be the primary criterion of which towns can participate in the MNP. Respondents stated that participating communities should have preparation criteria in place such as vital infrastructure, the ability to welcome newcomers, current economic growth initiatives, and publically supported colleges and institutions to assist retention.
The exact date of the MNP’s launch is unknown. There are still more questions than answers about how the program will work, who will be eligible, which towns will join, and what role major parties like companies and immigrant-serving organizations would play. IRCC will also release a request for proposals so that qualified municipalities can apply to IRCC for approval to recruit newcomers through the MNP.
The MNP will be operated by IRCC for up to five years and will process up to 2,750 applications each year. Within the five-year timeframe, IRCC would have to decide whether to make the MNP permanent, a procedure that would require Parliament’s approval.