Why We Require an Ontario Regional Immigration Strategy

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In 2018, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) welcomed 106,000 new permanent residents. In other words, the GTA welcomed more immigrants than Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and the four Atlantic provinces combined.

Immigration to the GTA is not slowing down as the region has already welcomed nearly 60,000 immigrants in the first half of 2019—significantly more immigrants than any province is able to attract over an entire year.

Immigration is undoubtedly beneficial to the GTA as it makes the region one of the most culturally vibrant in the world, and also economically and fiscally healthier than the rest of Ontario. At the same time, it would be beneficial for immigrants, the GTA, and Ontario to identify how to encourage more immigrants to build a life in other parts of the province.

Today, the GTA constitutes 45 per cent of Ontario’s population but attracts nearly 80 per cent of its immigrants. This means that 55 per cent of the province benefits from just 20 per cent of its newcomers. This comes at a time when immigrants are needed more than ever to alleviate the economic and fiscal challenges that are posed by Canada’s ageing population and low birth rate.

Connecting immigrants with good job opportunities in other parts of Ontario would benefit them as they would be able to start their lives in Canada in communities that are more affordable than the GTA.
These communities would benefit from attracting more global talent who would be a major source of labour, consumption, and tax revenues. Meanwhile, the GTA would benefit since this would help to alleviate the infrastructure challenges it faces (e.g., public transit, affordable housing) due to the rapid population growth caused by large flows of Canadians and immigrants alike to the region.

The federal and provincial governments recognize the importance of promoting a broader distribution of immigrants across Ontario. For instance, the Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement, which guides the relationship between the two parties, formalizes their commitment to work together on this front. In its 2019 budget, the Ontario government noted it will test new pilot programs so that smaller communities can attract more immigrants. The federal government launched a major new initiative of its own earlier this year called the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot that aims to help communities across Canada including in northern Ontario benefit from more immigration.