Immigration to Canada is set to increase over the next three years to 340,000 people a year by 2020 under the federal Liberal government’s new multi-year approach to admissions planning.
The immigration plan released Wednesday will see immigration levels climb from 300,000 people a year this year to 310,000 in 2018 and 330,000 in 2019.
The plan will also see the number of immigrants under the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Project double to 4,000 by 2020.
The pilot project was announced in July as part of the Atlantic growth strategy and officially launched in March. It aimed to bring up to 2,000 primary immigrant applicants and their families in 2017, with increased numbers in following years if the program performs well.
Nova Scotia was allocated about 800 of those slots. The program is designed to be a faster stream for immigration and, unlike other programs, includes employers.
According to provincial office of immigration numbers, 233 employers have been designated by the province under the Atlantic immigration pilot program, 151 applicants have been endorsed, and 13 people approved for permanent residency along with their families.
Nova Scotia Immigration Minister Lena Diab said she expects this will pick up in the coming years as more employers learn about the program and get designated.
Getting what we asked for
Diab called the multi-year approach being taken by Ottawa historic, and said it’s something she and her provincial counterparts have pushed for. For decades the federal government has relied on setting targets each year.
“(This plan) is very consistent with the goals of my government and my personal goals as the immigration minister. We want to see growth in all immigration. It’s the direction the country needs and more specifically the direction Nova Scotia needs,” she said.
The Nova Scotia government has long lobbied Ottawa for an increase in its provincially sponsored immigrant quota to curb population decline. Increasing the number of skilled immigrants was a key recommendation in the 2014 Ivany Report. Wednesday’s announcement saw those numbers increase nationally, from 51,000 in 2017 to 67,800 by 2020.
In 2015, Nova Scotia was able to get its cap under the nominee program increased from 700 to 1,050 and was later given a one-time top-up to 1,350 when it had filled its quota by mid-year. In 2016 the province negotiated to increase the number of economic immigrants it can nominate for permanent residency from 1,050 to 1,350, which is the current cap.
Targeting skilled workers
It’s not clear if Nova Scotia’s cap will be increased, but federal Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen told media Wednesday that fairly allocating these increases across the country is a priority.
“We as a province would like to have more control over our destiny and our programs and who we bring into the province because of specific gaps we want to fill,” Diab said.
The increases announced Wednesday will bring immigration to Canada to nearly one per cent of the population — a figure that many have cited as necessary for the Canadian economy to remain competitive as it confronts the realities of an aging workforce and declining birth rate.
On the other hand, however, it stops well short of setting a path toward 450,000 newcomers a year as recommended by the government’s influential economic advisory council in a report last year.
The biggest increase in newcomers will be in programs designed to lure skilled labour to Canada. This year, the target had been to admit 172,500 people in the economic program. That number will jump to 195,800 by 2020.
The high benchmark for refugee resettlement set in 2016 by the Liberals’ Syrian program — nearly 60,000 refugees and protected persons were admitted that year — isn’t being repeated.
Instead, by 2020, admissions in that category will rise from a planned 40,000 this year to 48,700.