Canada’s Premiers want more control over immigration like Quebec

Edana Robitaille
Published: July 13, 2023

The leaders of Canada’s provinces met in Winnipeg this week to discuss shared priorities.

The Premiers highlighted some areas that require urgent action. Three of these areas are linked closely to immigration.

  • Building a strong labour force;
  • Improving health care;
  • Addressing housing needs

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The Premiers have been meeting annually as the Council of the Federation since 2003 to help strengthen interprovincial and interterritorial cooperation and promote relations between the provincial and federal governments.

Building a strong labour force

They noted that provinces and territories are best positioned to address the needs of their respective labour markets and growing economies. They say this includes action on international recruitment, credential recognition, and skills training.

The Premiers say they have urged the federal government to support their respective efforts to address skills gaps through immigration by:

  • Expediting existing pathways and accelerating processing of applications to address specific labour market needs, including the issuance of required work permits;
  • Increasing the share of provincial and territorial Nominee Programs in the selection of economic immigrants;
  • Increasing the responsibility and involvement of provinces and territories in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program; and
  • Ensuring any new immigration pathways are developed in partnership with provinces and territories to support alignment with local labour market needs.

The Premiers have also called on the federal government to enter into agreements with the provinces that are similar in nature to the Canada-Quebec Accord. This agreement allows the province of Quebec to assume sole responsibility for its own immigration levels and the selection of all economic immigrants.

Currently, all provinces and territories except Quebec and Nunavut have their own PNPs through which they receive an allocation of nominations that they are able to issue to the candidates they feel will best support the provincial economy and labour force.

Healthcare

The provinces say they have committed to further action the increase Canadian’s access to qualified healthcare professionals. Healthcare is a provincial and territorial responsibility, and it is up to these governments to recruit, train and retain qualified healthcare professionals. The provinces say they are supporting further action to streamline credential recognition and licensure for internationally-educated health professionals.

The provinces have indicated that by working together to petition the federal government, they will be able to increase funding, hire more healthcare workers and improve healthcare for Canadians. This has been successful in the past as following last year’s meeting the provinces were successful in obtaining an increase in health funding of $196 billion over the next decade, including $46.2 billion in new funding.

Affordable Housing

Canada is expected to admit 500,000 new permanent residents each year by the end of 2025 but as it stands, affordable housing is in short supply. The Premiers have made several suggestions on how to make housing more affordable for Canadians. Proposed measures include:

  • Increase its financial commitment to housing, including support services, operational funding, capital funding, and incentives to promote creation of new supply;
  • Ensure funding flows through provinces and territories rather than municipalities;
  • Ensure programs are flexible, sufficiently funded, and meet the unique needs, priorities of provinces and territories;
  • Streamline approval processes and program management through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation; and
  • Amend tax policies to incentivize the development of new housing, especially the development and retention of purpose-built rental properties.

These measures are deemed necessary in the face of the rising cost of living in Canada. In fact, Canada’s overnight interest rate increased by .25 basis points to 5% on July 12. The Bank of Canada says these rate increases are necessary to curb spending and slow inflation.

When the interest rate rises, it becomes more expensive for banks to borrow money from other financial institutions (such as the Bank of Canada) and the cost is passed down to consumers who need to take out mortgages or other loans.

Improved program for displaced Ukrainians

The Premiers also noted that the deadline for applications under the Canada Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) program is approaching on July 15. They have noted that they do not believe the federal government has provided sufficient funding or support for displaced Ukrainians in Canada and are calling for an improved support program with a new funding partnership.

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