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Province asked to dedicate immigrant spots to the north

By Randy Thoms Jan 31, 2024 | 4:00 PM

Charla Robinsons, president of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, January 31, 2024

The provincial government is being asked to consider northern Ontario with its immigration program.

The Ontario Immigration Nominee Program works in partnership with a federal program to nominate immigrants who have employment in the province for permanent residency.

Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce’s Charla Robinson says the federal Rural and Northern Immigration pilot program has been highly successful in attracting new immigrants to the region and would like the Ontario program to consider dedicating specific spots to northern Ontario.

“Ontario should learn from and mirror this success through the allocation of Ontario Immigrant nominee program spots for northern and rural Ontario communities, and we urge the provincial government to ensure that the Ontario immigrant nominee program addresses labour market challenges by allocating 3,000 nominee spots to northern Ontario,” says Robinson.

The Chamber’s president says studies have shown that the region needs 50,000 people to sustain the current population and labour needs.

The Chamber would also like to see universities and colleges in northern Ontario receive an exemption from the federal cap on immigrant students.

The federal government recently announced it will approve 360,00 student permits this year, a decrease of 35% from 2023.

Robinson says International students are vital contributors to the region’s economy in reducing the current labour shortage and bringing diversity to local communities.

“As such, we’re very concerned that the federal policy to cap international student permits could have a significant negative impact on our two post-secondary institutions by limiting the recruitment of international students, exacerbating financial pressures on both Lakehead University and Confederation College, and reducing the breadth of sustainable programming options,” says Robinson.

In a presentation to a pre-budget hearing, Robinson also supported a new and lower tax structure for craft and microbrewers, the implementation of a forestry strategy and the recommendations from the Ontario Forest Industries Association, and infrastructure support that helps the mining industry access and further develop mining projects.