Newcomers — including immigrants, refugees, refugee claimants, international students, work permit holders, and undocumented persons — contribute significantly to Ontario’s economic, social, and cultural prosperity. The province hosts close to 50 percent of all newcomers to Canada. Newcomers bring work experience and skills, new perspectives, and ethnic and linguistic diversity. Despite barriers to entering the labour force, immigrants have the potential to help address complex labour force challenges, providing some buffer to an aging population, shrinking workforce, and labour and skills shortages. Ontario’s long-term reports on the province’s economy consistently note that population and labour force growth is immigration-driven.
Why Must the Ontario Budget Consider Newcomers?
Roughly half of all recent immigrants to Canada arrive in Ontario, and many make significant economic contributions. Ensuring that all Ontario residents can equitably and meaningfully adapt and integrate into their new contribute is key to supporting both short- and long-term economic and labour market stability in the province.
Although newcomers greatly participate in the life of the province to the province they face many challenges, including unemployment and finding skills-commensurate employment. Despite having the training, experience, and qualifications, newcomers, particularly those who are racialized, are affected by skills underutilization and overrepresentation in low-paying sectors, such as accommodation and food services. The worsening housing crisis is particularly acute for newcomers, who are also more vulnerable to evictions and landlord discrimination. The pandemic and the rising cost of living have increased the need for mental health supports for all Ontario residents, including newcomers.
What a Newcomer Inclusive Budget Should Include
WES proposed a number of recommendations to the Ontario government as it prepares the provincial budget. These recommendations are centered on building a resilient, inclusive economy that fully supports newcomers.
Some of the key recommendations:
- Skills training and workforce development: Ensure that Ontario has access to in-demand skills and that newcomers are equipped to enter the labour force.
- Income and employment support: Ensure that newcomers have equitable access to immigration and settlement services and are supported as they enter the labour force.
- Housing and childcare support: Improve access to shelters and affordable childcare for all Ontario residents, including newcomers.
- Creating a welcoming and inclusive province: Take concrete measures to address persistent xenophobia and racism.
- Wages and Working Conditions Provincial Commission: Establish this commission and task it with researching the economic, occupational health and safety, and social benefits associated with minimum wage versus living wage standards.
- Establish a permanent working group or task force to analyze the economic contributions immigrants make to the province, and to offer recommendations to improve labour force integration of immigrants into skills-commensurate jobs in key sectors.
- Allocate more funding and increase access to Newcomer Settlement and Language Training
Internationally Educated Health Workers
- In line with recommendations published in a recent WES policy brief, introduce in a coordinated, strategic manner (1) implementation of Practice-Ready Assessment (PRA) at an appropriate scale, (2) establishment of a defined class of registration for Clinical Assistants (CA), and (3) the means for an equitable expansion of medical residency training seats for ITPs.
- Provide funding to scale workplace-linked bridging models, such as the Supervised Practice Experience Partnership, to allow more internationally educated nurses to immediately offer
- Encourage the federal government to create accessible, streamlined pathways from temporary to permanent residency for international students.
- Fund post-secondary institutions (PSIs) to expand Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) opportunities to international students.
- Increase operating funds for PSIs to ensure that international students have access to supports, including financial and mental health services.
- Ensure policy coherence so that international students can access both federally and provincially funded employment and settlement supports.
- Develop guidelines and accountability frameworks for PSIs receiving provincial funding to ensure that tuition structures are applied equitably to all students.
- Expand eligibility for Ontario Health Insurance Plan to include international students.
Temporary Work Permit Holders
- Provide a long-term, stable pathway from temporary to permanent residency via the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program to work permit holders in all skill categories.
- Undertake targeted inspections of workplaces that employ work permit holders to ensure that employers are compliant and workers’ rights are protected.
- Lift exemptions to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 to provide a broader set of rights and protections to all work permit holders regardless of the industries they work in.
Refugees, Refugee Claimants, and Undocumented Persons
- Work with the federal government to establish adequate, stable, long-term funding for legal aid services, including immigration and refugee legal aid services.
- Establish Ontario as an “Access without Fear” province for those subject to a deportation order or who are undocumented.
- Develop a strategy to help refugees access post-secondary education and to support their retention at PSIs.
- Promote and expand opportunities for skilled refugees to resettle through economic immigration streams.
With Canada planning to welcome 500,000 immigrants a year by 2025, hundreds of thousands of newcomers will potentially settle in Ontario over the next few years. These newcomers will bring with them skills and experiences that will help to fill labour shortages across the province. It is essential that Ontario work to remove barriers to these newcomers’ full inclusion into the provincial economy.