Addressing Ontario’s immigration imbalance

An important Northern Ontario Large Urban Mayors (NOLUM) meeting was held in Sault Ste. Marie this week.

NOLUM is calling for remedial action from the Federal and Provincial Governments to address Ontario’s immigration imbalance

Provincial population projections released by the Ontario Ministry of Finance in 2017 indicate Ontario’s population is expected to grow during the period of 2016 to 2041, but Northern Ontario is projected to see an overall decrease from 797,000 to 782,000. In terms of provincial population share, the Northeast is expected to drop from 4.3% to 3% and Northwest from 1.8% to 1.3%.

According to the report, Ontario Population Projections Update, 2016-2041, migration is the most important factor contributing to population growth for Ontario as a whole and the North receives only a small share of international migration. Census results (25% sample data) indicate Greater Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay, Thunder Bay and Timmins combined received 2,285 immigrants between 2011 to 2016, while Ontario received 472,170 immigrants during the same period.

Large urban areas currently receive most of the international migration to Ontario, precipitating the need for a policy change. NOLUM recommends the Federal and Provincial Governments partner to implement a similar program to the Atlantic Immigration Pilot. The program sees the Federal Government and four Atlantic provinces (New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) help employers in the region hire job candidates who aren’t Canadian citizens or permanent residents by expediting the immigration process. The candidates fill jobs employers have had trouble filling locally.

During the NOLUM meeting on Thursday, I made a presentation about demographic challenges related to age structure, the pace of natural increase and immigration to the North. Northern Ontario faces similar and in some cases even more precarious demographic issues as the Atlantic provinces partnering with the Federal Government for the pilot program. For example, in terms of immigration, census results (25% sample data) indicate the four Atlantic provinces received 12,075 more immigrants between 2011 and 2016 in comparison to the 2006 to 2010 period, while Greater Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay, Thunder Bay and Timmins experienced a net increase of 205 immigrants during the same period.

NOLUM members (myself), Mayor Steve Black, Mayor Brian Bigger, Mayor Al McDonald and Mayor Keith Hobbs have committed to seeking the support of their respective City Councils regarding the implementation of a program similar to the Atlantic Immigration Pilot.

Additionally, as a result of the meeting, NOLUM members highlighted northern priorities ahead of the upcoming provincial election.