Speaking notes for The Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P. Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism

At a news conference to announce the results of the Provincial Nominee Program evaluation
Calgary, Alberta, January 26, 2012

As delivered

I’m Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, and I’m here this morning to announce the results of an important benchmark analysis we have done of one of our successful and increasingly important immigration programs, the Provincial Nominee Program.  I should point out that in the last hour, Prime Minister Harper gave his speech on Canada’s economic leadership at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in which he emphasized the importance of immigration in securing Canada’s prosperity in the future. 

He stressed the importance of reforms in our economic immigration policies in order to select candidates who will help to build this country and contribute to our economic growth.

And one of the important programs that has been developed particularly by our government in the past five years, which has led to better economic outcomes for immigrants and a much better geographic distribution of immigrants is the Provincial Nominee Program – as it’s popularly known, the PNP. It has grown over the past decade to become the second-largest economic immigration program after the Federal Skilled Worker Program. 

Immigration, of course, is a shared responsibility between the Government of Canada and the provinces and territories, so we have to make a conscious effort in recent years to allow the provinces to play a bigger role in selecting economic immigrants. Here in Alberta for example, the PNP has increased by more than 18-fold in recent years, from over 400 people admitted in 2004 to about 7,500 folks admitted in 2010 in this province alone. 

So this evaluation examined a range of questions related to program relevance and performance.  These included the need for a PNP in Canada, provincial and territorial objectives and whether they are being met through the PNP, and the extent to which provincial nominees are becoming established economically in Canada. In other words, whether they’re finding and keeping good jobs and starting successful businesses. 

So today, I am pleased to announce that the results of the evaluation confirm the continuing need for the Provincial Nominee Program. Overall, it’s working well and is addressing local and regional labour market needs in the provinces and territories, attracting investment and contributing to population growth. The evaluation found that the majority of immigrants nominated by provinces and territories are establishing well economically, particularly those with knowledge of an official language, although there were differences in outcomes by province and territory and by stream within the PNP

Most provincial nominees also had jobs at a skill level equivalent to their intended occupation, and that’s a key important thing. Because so often we’ve had skilled and highly-educated immigrants who end up stuck in survival jobs, being underemployed or unemployed. We think that at least in the short term, PNs are doing better at finding and keeping good jobs. 

I’m pleased that the evaluation shows the PNP is effective and helping to spread the benefits of immigration across the country. More specifically, it has been successful in settling economic immigrants outside the major metropolitan areas of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Today, 26% of all economic immigrants are destined for provinces other than Ontario, B.C. and Quebec, compared to 11% in 1997. So, put another way, a few years ago, nine out of 10 immigrants settled in typically Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and that is down significantly while we’ve seen a huge increase in immigration to the Prairies and a significant increase in the Atlantic provinces thanks to the PN program. 

Here in Alberta, for example, thanks to growth in this program, we have more than doubled the admission of immigrants to the province of Alberta, helping us to fill some of our big labour shortages in this province. However, retention rates of provincial nominees in their province or territory of nomination vary quite widely. They range from 23% on the East Coast to 95%, for example, in B.C., depending on the province. This issue merits further attention because obviously we don’t want the PN program to be abused where provinces are inviting people to come into their program, into their province, and they in fact end up going somewhere else, and that is one of the key issues coming out of this report. 

The evaluation also pointed to some areas of the PNP in need of improvement, particularly in the areas of program design, delivery and accountability, as well as fraud detection. My Department will work with provinces and territories to strengthen these elements of the program and ensure that it remains an effective tool for spreading the benefits of immigration across the country.  When I speak about fraud detection, there are always people around the world, and particularly in the industry of bottom-feeding, unscrupulous immigration agents and consultants, who are willing to cut corners in order to make money to get people to Canada, faking documents, faking job offers and the like. And this is something we need to cooperate with the provinces on more closely to make sure that the people that they are nominating and we are admitting are coming here legitimately, have those job offers and indeed are qualified. 

One of the report’s key recommendations is that Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the provinces should work together to develop a requirement for minimum standards  regarding language ability, as language is one of the key determinants of economic success. This work is already underway. 

The Government of Canada is committed to making the PN program even better and will be working closely with the provinces to carry out the other recommendations in the report. So, just in closing, what we are finding in this report is that the PN program is working quite well, but there’s room for improvement. We are getting a much better geographic distribution of immigrants across the country, which is good news for Alberta and the West in particular, and for newcomers because they’re going to places increasingly where the jobs are. And at least in the initial years that they arrive in Canada, they’re doing quite well economically, in fact better in the first three years than are federal skilled worker immigrants, generating decent incomes, high levels of employment, typically at the skill levels that they have. 

That’s primarily because the PN program is at its best based on an arranged offer of employment system.  So over half of the provincial nominees coming to Canada already have a job offer lined up, as opposed to only about 17% of the federal skilled workers. And what we know from our research is that, obviously, people who come with a job already lined up do extremely well.  Federal skilled workers, for example, who have a pre-arranged job when they get to Canada do much better than those that don’t. 

So one of the things I want to work on with the provinces is how we can maximize the value of the PN selection process, get businesses more involved in the process, in recruiting people proactively from overseas with businesses so they already have jobs lined up when they get there. I should also say that will be an important part of the reforms that we will be making to the federal skilled worker points system later this year, as intimated by the Prime Minister today in Davos. 

So I’m happy to take your questions on this or any other issue.

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