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Why does the Provincial Nominee Program exist? Exploring the reasons behind one of Canada's most popular immigration programs.

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This year, the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) has welcomed over 40,000 new immigrants to Canada; even more applicants than those accepted through the Express Entry-managed programs—a first since Express Entry was instituted in 2015. An increasingly popular method of obtaining permanent residence (PR), Canada’s PNP has an interesting history that is crucial to know in understanding how the program runs, its priorities, and how you can use this information to aid your chances at immigration.

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Immigration in the ’90s

The PNP exists to spread the benefits of immigration throughout Canada, and (by extension) to help provinces fulfill their economic needs.

In the mid-1990s most (88%) of Canadian immigration was focused in three provinces (that are still the most populous to this day) — Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia. As a result, the Prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba), and the Atlantic provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and Labrador) realized that a significantly smaller proportion (the remaining 12% of immigrants) were being spread between these eight provinces, and the Yukon and Northwest Territories.

This would pose a serious problem to the social and economic goals of these provinces, and set the groundwork for the innovations that were to come; as the provincial governments looked for a way to make immigration to their provinces more enticing to foreign workers.

The loss of the Winnipeg Jets

In 1996, Manitoba’s hockey team, the Winnipeg Jets were forced to move out of the province due to financial concerns, transitioning to Phoenix, Arizona (becoming the Phoenix Coyotes); a cause of heartache among Manitobans.

The loss of a beloved sports team was the impetus for a group of 10 Manitoba businessmen, who banded together to create the Business Council of Manitoba (BCM). The group was led by the Honorable Jim Carr, a current member of parliament, who in the past served as the Minister of Natural Resources, and (later) as The Minister of International Trade Diversification.

The BCM was united not just by the loss of the Winnipeg Jets, but also by a shared belief that with more people, Manitoba would be much better positioned to grow its economy and retain youth who would otherwise immigrate to other provinces. They believed this was the underlying issue that was causing economic contraction within the province, and that had led to the Jets’ departure.

Instituting the PNP

Manitoba would prove to be a forerunner in developing and implementing the PNP; starting with the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (MPNP).

With the help of the BCM, the provincial government would sign the Canada-Manitoba Immigration Act in 1996, the first bilateral framework of its kind. Setting the stage to implement a new immigration policy that could aid Manitoba, developments happened quickly thereafter:

  • 1997 saw Manitoba launch a pilot program to encourage immigration to rural areas of the province;
  • In 1998 Manitoba signs the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program Annex, implementing the first-ever PNP in Canada’s history;
  • In 1999 the first 418 nominees arrive in Manitoba;
  • Between 2004 – 2006 the MPNP expands to six new skilled worker streams, increasing flexibility and expanding availability to 10,000 applicants;
  • In 2008 Manitoba signed the Worker Recruitment & Protection Act, the first legislation of its kind in Canada to protect foreign workers;
  • In 2010 “Manitoba Start”, a settlement service for temporary workers and residents opens; and
  • In 2011 the Winnipeg Jets return to their home province.

The subsequent years would see other provinces take cues from Manitoba’s success, and pick up their own PNPs; today each province (with the exception of Quebec and the territory of Nunavut) has its own program, with the total number of PNPs growing to over 80.

Wider adoption

After the resounding success of Manitoba’s PNP, other provinces looked to implement similar programs to address their own economic needs.

While Quebec had essentially instituted its own PNP through its control of economic immigration (pursuant to the 1991 Canada-Quebec Accord); the federal government’s unwillingness to replicate its agreement with Quebec was a driver towards the implementation of PNPs across provinces.

Why does this matter to you?

The PNP has seen massive growth recently, being one of the primary ways that Canada will welcome immigrants in 2022, and likely in 2023 as well.

Immigrant hopefuls will likely see a lot of value in investigating what PNP stream they would best qualify under, and what provinces may need them. Further understanding the economic goals and labour conditions within a province you are considering immigrating to, will help greatly in positioning yourself and your application best towards potential immigration sponsorship and even PR.

Applicants may find utility in remembering that Manitoba (and other provinces, with noted exceptions), will address their economic needs with the help of PNPs and economic immigration streams—doing so according to their labour market conditions and requirements.

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