Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino spoke to The London Free Press about the federal government’s plans to attract more newcomers to the region to fill jobs that will be needed to fuel post-pandemic recovery.
Q: What’s the purpose of the discussions you are having with London leaders, including Mayor Ed Holder and the Chamber of Commerce?
A: We’ve recently introduced our immigration plan, which is a plan that is focused on jobs. It’s focused on economic recovery and the reason why we have put it into place is that we know that immigration creates jobs. . . . We’re confident that we’re going to have really good discussions and make sure that we can deliver the workers, the international students . . . all individuals who are going to help the local economy (and) help us kickstart our recovery coming out of the pandemic.
Q: Are there any specific initiatives that could help medium-sized cities like London attract newcomers?
A: The International Student Program is a driver of the local economy in London and that’s one that has been leveraged and will continue to be, . . . but the second is a new program which we’re hoping to launch in the short term, and that is the Municipal Nominee Program. What this program will seek to do is to work closely with local municipal leaders, and business leaders . . . and learn precisely what are the local needs of the economy in London, and then align those needs to the skills and the experience and the talent with aspiring newcomers.
Q: Before the pandemic, the federal government had ambitious immigration targets. Is immigration still a priority?
A: When I tabled our immigration plan for 2021 to 2023, we had a choice and we chose to grow our targets because we knew that by growing, we would be creating jobs . . . Demographics right now demonstrate that we have a declining birth rate and the pressure on each one of us to bear our share of the cost to maintain things like . . . public education, universal health care (and) retirement security depends on our ability to continue to grow our workforce. Right now, our workforce is at zero growth without immigration, so we need immigration.
Q: The pandemic has also impacted processing times. What is the government doing to address those issues?
A: The reason why I’m confident we’re going to meet the plan of 401,000 for 2021 is . . . because we have an opportunity to look within our borders at the domestic temporary immigrants who are already here: . . . the international students who are living in cities like London, who are already contributing, and who we want to stay. . . . We’re going to invest in additional personnel so we’ve got the people to do the job of reviewing the applications. We are going more digital, not only on citizenship ceremonies and testing, but right across every line of business and especially on permanent residency landing and the proof of that . . . is that in January of 2021, we landed 30 per cent more than we did (in January 2020).