International Student Cap Will Impact Economic Growth

In a letter to the federal Minister of Immigration, the Chamber and Thunder Bay CEDC request an exemption to the international student cap.

International Student Cap Will Impact Economic Growth

Feb 1, 2024 | Advocacy, Federal Advocacy, News

In a letter to the federal Minister of Immigration, the Chamber and Thunder Bay CEDC request an exemption to the international student cap.

The Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship

Dear Minister Miller:

The Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce and the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission work closely on efforts to enhance our local economic environment. We are informing you of our concerns regarding the profound consequences of the recently announced international student cap for the Thunder Bay region. We strongly believe in the need for an exemption from these changes for Thunder Bay and other communities participating in the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot program.

Labour shortages in Thunder Bay and across Northern Ontario are well-documented. Our communities are experiencing a population decline fueled by natural aging, low fertility rates, a rising life expectancy and an increase of out-migration. Population and migration trends suggest Northern Ontario needs 50,000 newcomers by 2041 to sustain current population levels and our labour needs. The Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot program was created to recognize the severe challenges faced by rural and northern communities across the country, including in the five largest cities in Northern Ontario.
International students are crucial in addressing our population declines and adding diversity and vitality to Thunder Bay. Small and large businesses depend on international students to fill front-line positions that might otherwise go vacant. We are deeply concerned that applying a uniform approach to the international student cap could lead to heightened labour shortages in the region, negatively impacting businesses and posing increased barriers to economic development opportunities in the short and long term.

The negative impact of the international student cap on the success of Confederation College and Lakehead University will reverberate across our region. International students are a vital financial contributor to our post-secondary institutions, building capacity that assures a breadth of academic programming that aligns with the needs of local industries. A reduction in international student enrollment will result in reduced program offerings that will limit the availability of locally trained, skilled workers to ensure local and regional businesses can grow and succeed.

We also anticipate negative consequences to Thunder Bay’s Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot program (RNIP) resulting from the cap on international student permits. To date, the majority of local RNIP recommendations have been granted to recent international student graduates. Should the program be made permanent, the student cap could also limit the pool of candidates who are interested in staying in Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario. Recruitment of individuals already in Thunder Bay and the region is timelier and has a greater chance of long-term success given the candidates are already integrated into the community. We have had great success in the Pilot and look forward to the program being made permanent.

We acknowledge a housing crisis across the country, however not all communities are experiencing the same levels of concern. Thunder Bay has made significant progress in surpassing its housing start goals in 2023 and expects to remain on track over the coming years.

The message that has been sent to the world regarding Canada’s cap on international students works directly against all our investments and efforts in newcomer attraction for Thunder Bay and our region. In recognition of the instrumental role that international students play in addressing population decline, labour shortages, and the availability of essential educational programming for our region, we ask that the Federal Government implement an exemption to the international student cap for Thunder Bay and all communities that participated in the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot program.

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