Provincial leaders ask for more control over Canadian immigration

Canada’s provincial Premiers, the elected leaders of the country’s ten provinces and three territories - assembled in Halifax for a Council of the Federation – have claimed they could better benefit their own regional economies better if they had more control over Canadian immigration.

‘We want greater flexibility’, said Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. ‘We want to become masters of our own destiny when it comes the immigration file.’ ‘Nobody better understands our needs and our capacity to accommodate and our capacity to develop new Canadians, so that they can contribute to their fullest, than the provinces themselves. ‘So we're just saying to [the federal government] 'give us some more space, let us run with this.’

The provinces already have some influence on immigrants to their regions through the Provincial Nominee Program - the provinces outline their economic needs and what labour demands they have and can nominate suitable applicants for a Canada visa accordingly.

However, the Premiers argue that the balance of power is not evenly spread between the national and provincial level governments. ‘In an area of shared jurisdiction we want more space to be able to make our decisions about which immigrants will come to our provinces - where they will be and how many we'll get, because it's provincial governments that drive national economies’, said British Columbia Premier Christy Clark. ‘We need a lot more control over that so that we can, as provinces, do our job and lift the national economy up.’

Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has been making large-scale changes to the Canadian immigration system in recent months and last week revealed an Expression of Interest system - similar to that in Australia - will be created to allow the system to be more responsive. However, Mr Kenney's spokesperson, Alexis Pavlich, suggested control of the system will remain at the national level: ‘Our government believes that immigration is not just about addressing regional labour market needs, it's also about nation building.’

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