The immigration world in Manitoba is being turned on its head as I write this piece. It seems like everywhere I turn – from CBC Radioto the Winnipeg Free Pressto conversations with immigration staff at the federal and provincial levels – I’m hearing that we are in for major changes. What will immigration services in the province look like after the dust settles? Does Winnipeg still have a federal immigration centre and regional office at the Forks? I am not sure at this point because I have not been privy the discussions with federal and provincial immigration staff about the changes being forced upon the province by the federal government. There are, however, a number of things that we know for sure from the tabling of the federal budget as well as the rumours and news releases of the past few days. Following is a brief summary of things that are being reported.
Major revamp for federal skilled immigration program
From the federal budget we first read that the federal skilled immigration program was going to be revamped in a major way. The federal immigration minister Jason Kenny has found the most novel way of getting rid of the four year plus backlog of skilled worker applications. The federal government has decided to suspend processing on many of the applications and return the application fees that were paid. Federal immigration will refund $130 million and get rid of about 300,000 applications through legislation.
What does this mean? On the surface it means that 300,000 applicants will be disappointed. To me it appears like a popular ad from one of the financial institutions that we see on our TVs. In the ad a young girl is offered a pony by the spokesperson, which she accepts and receives a toy pony in return. Her friend also asks for a pony but is given a real pony. The first girl complains, “You didn’t you say that I could have a real pony.” To which the suspect financial institution responds, “Well you didn’t ask.”
This scenario appears to played out in real terms with the federal skilled worker applicants who submitted their applications with the reasonable assumption that, after paying their fees and meeting the requirements (potentially at least until adjudication), they would be issued permanent resident visas. Not so! Instead federal immigration has changed the rules after accepting an application and fees and will now be refunding their fees and closing their applications. That TV commercial is right to say that even an innocent little girl knows, when she is denied a real pony, that it is not right.
Federal agreements with Manitoba & BC cancelled
The proposed changes to immigration are more widespread than changes in the skilled worker application stream. The federal government apparently is tearing up their bilateral immigration agreements with Manitoba and British Columbia. I listened to CBC radio this morning and read the Winnipeg Free Pressto discover that first the federal government was removing the two provinces from the delivery of settlement services. As of April 12, 2012 the government has cancelled agreements with British Columbia and Manitoba that allow both provinces to manage their own language training and jobs programs for newcomers.
“We’re ending it because we think that the integration services are about nation building and we want to make sure that every region gets its fair share of funding and that immigrants across the country get consistent services regardless of where they live” said a federal spokesperson. The source was quick to add that federal funding for Manitoba would actually increase from $31 million in 2011 to $36.5 million in the fiscal year 2012 to 2013. This is an interesting explanation because it was the same federal department that first transferred service delivery for newcomers to the provinces, then spent over 10 years funding and monitoring of the service delivery, only to make an independent decision to remove settlement services from Manitoba and British Columbia.
It looks like federal immigration is at least consistent with the way they treat skilled worker applicants and provincial partners. They have promised one thing and then give their service partner or applicant something quite different. There is no respect shown for the other party and they act like they have no responsibility. They may have offered you a pony but you would be foolish to trust Minister Kenny or Prime Minister Harper to keep their word to provide you with a real one.
The Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program
What about our beloved provincial nominee program? The program comes from the Manitoba-Canada Accord that was bilateral in discussions and renewal but now apparently can be suspended without notice by the senior government. Bilateral means “two sides” but apparently Minister Kenny has no respect for his provincial partners.
Premier Greg Selinger was rightly concerned when interviewed for the Winnipeg Free Pressarticle. He spoke in glowing terms of the success of the nominee program that have not only brought over 100,000 newcomers to Manitoba but also the language programs and other settlement services have helped newcomers integrate and settle into life in the province and pay the province and country back with taxes and other contributions that have all added to the economic wealth of the province and country.
“It’s a real mistake to destroy something with proven results,” concluded Premier Selinger. “We have a year’s notice. Cooler heads should prevail.”
Is the sky actually falling?
It seems that the bad news is never ending with cuts in Canadian Border Services Agency and Canadian immigration staff, which are a part of the government’s intention to cut the size of federal civil services. The one thing that is coming to pass is the requirement for mandatory English language testing. Yes, IELTS is becoming mandatory for all provincial nominee applicants. Will MPNP continue in its present form? It is a good question but we must all wait for an answer. I do know from the experiences of the last few years, and especially from the furore of today, that I would question any and all promises made by Minister Jason Kenny. To promise one thing and deliver something else is “wrong” – even a little girl with a toy pony knows that.
Michael Scott BA (Hon), MA, is a 30-year veteran of Canada Immigration and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program who works as an immigration associate with R.B. Global Immigration Consultants Ltd. He can be reached at 838 Ellice Avenue in Winnipeg, (204) 783-7326 or (204) 227-0292. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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