WES Response to the 2021 Ontario Budget: Ensuring an Immigrant-Inclusive Recovery

Toronto, ON—(April 1, 2021) WES monitored the release of the Ontario government’s 2021 budget with great interest. We were pleased to see strong investment in and focus on protecting peoplehealth and the economy.  

The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated that profound inequities persist in our labour market and social safety net. Newcomers, racially diverse and low-income communities, women, and youth have disproportionally felt the brunt of the pandemic.  

WES is committed to the vision that everyone should be able to put their education, skills, and experience to work anywhere in the world. Now, as Ontario looks to rebuild, immigrants will be critical to the province’s short- and long-term recovery 

Health Care and Internationally Educated Health Professionals 

The Ontario budget includes significant health care investments, including an ambitious plan to facilitate the hiring of more than 27,000 new positions in the long-term care (LTC) sectorOntario’s internationally educated health professionals stand ready to make a lasting contribution to protecting our collective health.  

WES is working with partners to tackle the underutilization of the skills and experience of Canada’s immigrant health professionals. This includes: 

  • Convening leaders from internationally educated physicians groups to address systemic licensure impediments and to find meaningful opportunities for this talent pool to contribute to Ontario’s health care system both during the pandemic and beyond  
  • Working with stakeholders in longterm care to better utilize the skills of internationally educated nurses   

We look forward to supporting the government’s new Staffing Supply Accelerator Group in their efforts to implement this health care recruiting and training program. We will provide concrete ideas on how to support the Ontario LTC sector, specifically internationally educated nurses, through access to bridging programs and nursing registration in OntarioThis initiative will: 

  • Help to alleviate a severe staffing shortage while adding quality care competencies  
  • Address the long standing economicgender, and racial inequities that far too many newcomers have experienced 

Immigrant Youth and International Students 

The $117.3 million targeted for employment and training supports for residents facing the highest levels of unemployment is a welcome investment. WES is ready to lend its support, advice, and expertise toward ensuring that this investment includes immigrants, refugees, racialized women, and youth, who are key to Ontario’s recovery and prosperity.  

To support workforce development among immigrant and refugee youth and international students, WES has co-convened a national roundtable on immigrant youth workforce development. This table has identified the lack of data, stakeholder silos, and lack of immigrant youth specific programming as barriers to labour market inclusion and success. The partners at this new national table would welcome the opportunity to provide support and advice to government and allies on this critical issue. 

Approximately 34 percent of all newcomers to Canada are under age 25 and, according to Statistics Canada, immigrant youth (15-34) comprise 21 percent of the working youth population of Canada. This cohort has a higher unemployment rate than Canadian-born youth and is more likely to work in low-skilledlow-wage jobs. We are also concerned that unemployment levels, particularly for Black youth (31.6 percent), many of whom are newcomers, average twice the rate of white youth (15.4 percent). 

We are concerned for students as well. There is evidence that recessions have long-term negative impacts on recent graduates, including international students, because periods of high unemployment interrupt early career trajectory. And wknow that racially and ethnically biased streaming at the secondary school level is a barrier. Among other issues, we want to ensure that the financial impacts and remote learning changes to the education sector do not further harm newcomer youth or inequitably raise tuition costs for international students.  

Racism and Xenophobia 

Finally, WES condemns the rise of anti-Asian racism this past year. A recent report from the Chinese Canadian Council showed 40 percent of such incidents took place in Ontario. These xenophobic attacks must end, and we call on the government to reexamine the very limited allocation announced in the budget for anti-racism initiatives. 

Ensuring a recovery that builds on the education, skills, and experiences of newcomers who are making Ontario their home is an essential element of protecting our collective health and rebuilding economic wellbeing