At the 2019 Annual General Meeting of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce presented the following resolution:
Employers across Ontario, but particularly in small cities of under 200,000 population and rural areas, are experiencing a shortage of qualified employees and a shrinking labour market. This challenge will continue to grow as existing workers retire.
Many employers are already facing a shortage of qualified employees and communities are struggling with a shrinking labour market. According to research by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, finding someone with proper qualifications is the top challenge for businesses looking to recruit new staff.1
One part of the solution to the skills shortage challenge is through progressive immigration policies and processes. The current Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) is one area where Ontario’s policies put us at a disadvantage in attracting migrants to meet our labour market needs. The list of eligible professions is narrow and does not include many of the professions that are experiencing shortages such as plumbers, chefs, personal support workers, and truck drivers.
To add further challenges, the OINP requires employers to obtain a labour market impact assessment (LMIA) prior to offering a job to a recent migrant. This LMIA uses provincial information in determining whether a job can be offered to an immigrant. Employers in small and rural communities who are unable to attract Canadian citizens from major urban centres are often denied the opportunity to hire an immigrant because the LMIA data shows that sufficient Canadian citizens are available to fill the role but does not consider whether Canadian citizens are willing to relocate to that area.
A third area of concern is that the OINP does not allocate any of its 6,600 nominated spots to support regional immigration. Between 2011 and 2016 more than three-quarters of all immigrants to Ontario (both Federal & OINP) arrived in the Greater Toronto Area. The OINP would be best utilized by supporting the attraction efforts of communities outside of the GTA.
The Manitoba Immigrant Nomination Program demonstrates the efficacy of being flexible. It includes a much broader list of eligible professions, does not require a LMIA, and provides local communities the opportunity to nominate a certain number of migrants to address local labour shortages. This approach has seen positive results. Each year, some 15,000 immigrants arrive in Manitoba. According to provincial data, 90 percent of Manitoba nominees are employed within their first year and over 130,000 Provincial Nominees have landed since 1998 with a 90 percent retention rate.
The expansion of the list of in-demand jobs to include NOC skill level C, the elimination of the need for a labour market impact assessment for small and rural communities, and the allocation of a percentage of nominee spots by region would improve the ability of small and rural communities to address labour shortages through the OINP.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce urges the Government of Ontario to:
- Implement changes to the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program by:
- expanding the list of eligible professions to include NOC skill level C positions that are in demand in each community;
- allocating OINP spots on a regional basis to address labour market needs; and
- working with the Federal Government to eliminate the requirement for a labour market impact assessment for OINP participants to be hired in Ontario communities with populations under 200,000.