By RON FANFAIR
The first Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement signed four years ago is not working in favour of this province, says Ontario’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Michael Chan.
Under the deal signed on November 21, 2005, the federal government was expected to provide Ontario with $920 million in new immigration funding over five years to help newcomers successfully assimilate into the province’s communities and achieve their full potential.
With just nine months left before the current agreement expires, on March 31, 2010, Chan claims his government has received only $407 million. He also said Canada’s Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister, Jason Kenney, recently informed him that the federal government is diverting $90 million of the funds originally promised to Ontario, into other programs and provinces.
“We are really disappointed that, in these difficult times for many immigrants, the federal government has chosen to cut back on its promised funding,” Chan said at a press conference. “Throughout Canadian history, immigration has always been central to our economic prosperity. New Canadians are suffering more in the recession and the unemployment rate for new Canadians has doubled.
“Construction, manufacturing and the trades have been particularly hard hit, putting thousands of newcomers out of work. Many of these jobs are not going to come back under the current conditions. More than ever before, newcomers need help and they need it now. Unfortunately, newcomers are not well supported by the current agreement which is not working well.”
Chan said the province has already begun negotiations with the federal government on a new agreement that will ensure the funding is transferred directly to the province which, in turn, will develop programs for its newcomers.
Each year, nearly 125,000 newcomers – about half of all the new arrivals – come to Ontario. By 2011, immigration is expected to account for 100 per cent of net labour market growth.
“In the new agreement, we want the federal government to transfer the funds to the government of Ontario so that we would be able to develop and deliver a comprehensive and co-ordinated set of programs, so as to better meet newcomers’ urgent needs,” he said.
The current deal covers settlement and language training services, partnership with municipalities, the provincial nominee program, a temporary foreign workers agreement and the Ontario Immigration Web Portal.