Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program giving rural communities a new lease on life
In 1996, the Manitoba community of Steinbach had a population of 8,478 people, a number that has now almost doubled thanks in large part to the province’s immigrant nominee program.
This and other successes of the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (MPNP) were touted recently in an article by the province’s Minister of Education and Training, Kelvin Goertzen, who represents Steinbach in Manitoba’s Legislative Assembly.
The MPNP became Canada’s first provincial nominee program when it was introduced in 1998 and has brought in more than 130,000 economic immigrants to Manitoba since then.
More than 20 per cent of these immigrants established themselves in smaller, regional communities like Steinbach.
“When I was growing up, I would have had to get on a plane to travel the world,” Goertzen wrote. “Today, my son only has to go to the local school to experience an incredible diversity of people and cultures.”
Goertzen said the impact of the MPNP has been "transformative" for Steinbach and other regional communities like it.
Provincial nominee programs like the MPNP help spread the benefits of immigration beyond Canada's major urban centres by allowing participating provinces and territories to nominate a set number of economic immigration candidates for Canadian permanent residence each year.
In 2018, the MPNP nominated a record 5,119 immigration candidates through its Skilled Worker in Manitoba and Skilled Worker Overseas streams. Citizens of India led with 34.2 per cent of all nominations last year, followed by citizens of China at 15.8 per cent and citizens of the Philippines at 11.8 per cent.
Like Steinbach, other communities in the province have seen their populations grow thanks to the MPNP. Goertzen pointed to examples like Winkler and Morden, which implemented its now nationally renowned immigration initiative in 2012.
“Winkler’s population has doubled since 1996 and Morden has seen its population grow by welcoming, on average, 50 families a year from 2013 to 2018,” Goertzen said.
Vitally, around 90 per cent of immigrants opt to stay in Manitoba, he noted, a reality that is breathing new life into the communities where they settle.
“These statistical facts are brought much closer to home for all those communities that have been able to keep their schools open and in many cases even add additional schools and classrooms to keep up with their growing youth population,” Goertzen wrote.
Labour force growth sparked by immigration has also helped local Manitoba businesses flourish and expand. This trend has caught the eye of regional communities in other provinces, a number of which have dispatched delegations to Manitoba to learn from its experiences.
Goertzen says the federal government’s recently launched Northern and Rural Immigration Pilot also draws on Manitoba’s established best practices, which he outlined as “partnerships with local business and economic development leaders, strong settlement planning and targeted recruitment to fit local needs.”
Goertzen also detailed future MPNP innovations that Manitoba will be rolling out.
- A new rural immigration toolkit to help communities benefit from best practices by municipalities with experience using the MPNP to grow their workforce and population.
- New partnerships between the MPNP and industry, sector councils and local Chambers of Commerce to strengthen ‘real-time labour market information,’ employer input to applicant selection and employer hiring from applicant pools.
- Increased employer direct recruitment of permanent workers through improved access to Labour Market Impact Assessment-exempt work permits under the MPNP.
- Expanded options for employers for overseas and local recruitment through international recruitment initiatives and recruitment of workers on exploratory visits.
- More streamlined processes for recruiting higher-skilled, higher-wage workers.
- Investment of application fees in program and service improvements to “support better economic outcomes for all newcomers, including those establishing in rural communities.”
Manitoba is also looking to renew the Canada Manitoba Immigration Agreement with two key goals in mind:
- Improve the MPNP’s ability to respond to community and industry-specific needs with greater flexibility when it comes to federal minimum criteria like language; and
- Reduce federal permanent resident visa processing times for provincial nominees applying outside the federal Express Entry system.
"We need to address the inherent unfairness that applicants to federal programs (mostly going to larger cities and provinces) are processed within six months for a permanent visa while most provincial nominees have to wait for as long 18 months for the same visa," Goertzen wrote.
"This delays the arrival of newcomers to our rural communities and employers, and unnecessarily and unfairly delays these families from contributing their skills and investments to our economy."