How to design the Municipal Nominee Program
Following each federal election in Canada, the Prime Minister provides cabinet ministers with mandate letters to fulfill.
The mandate letters outline the priorities of each minister.
After Canada’s October 2019 election, Marco Mendicino was appointed as immigration minister. Launching a new Municipal Nominee Program (MNP) was among the priorities outlined to him by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Minister Mendicino said that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) was in the early stages of consulting with the public on the MNP.
The pandemic has interrupted these plans but the MNP will eventually launch. Here are some early thoughts on what it could look like.
5,000 spots available per year
Mendicino’s mandate letter calls for at least 5,000 immigration spots to be available under the MNP.
This strongly suggests that the MNP will launch as a pilot program, like other new IRCC programs rolled out in recent years.
If this is the case, IRCC could welcome up to 2,750 principal applicants under the pilot per year. The remaining 2,250 spots would be available for the spouses and dependents of principal applicants.
Selecting the municipalities
The first major consideration of designing the program is identifying how IRCC can select participating municipalities.
This will be a challenging undertaking considering the number of municipalities that exist in Canada, most of which would benefit from higher immigration to support their economies.
To provide a sense of how difficult it will be to identify which municipalities should participate, consider that Canada had 35 census metropolitan areas (CMA) and 117 census agglomerations (CA) as of the 2016 Census.
Generally speaking, a CMA has a population of at least 100,000 people while a CA has a population below that but at least 10,000 people.
Many of these CMAs and CAs will welcome the opportunity to participate under the MNP.
To narrow the field, IRCC may choose to exclude the Atlantic provinces, since they have the Atlantic Immigration Pilot, and communities that are participating in the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot.
This would leave the MNP to municipalities within British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario.
IRCC could then invite interested municipalities to submit applications to participate in the MNP. IRCC would go on to employ selection criteria similar to what it used when choosing participating RNIP communities.
MNP selection criteria
Canada does not need to reinvent the wheel once MNP communities have been determined.
Selection criteria can continue to focus on the likes of age, education, language skills, work experience, and whether candidates have community ties such as local education, work experience, or family.
Key to the success of the MNP will be ensuring its selection criteria is not too onerous, while at the same time ensuring the selection criteria is rigorous.
One of the risks with imposing criteria such as needing a job offer and settlement plan to be eligible for the MNP is such criteria can make it very difficult to get enough qualified candidates. In the absence of enough candidates, the MNP will not be able to achieve its goal of supporting economic development in participating communities.
At the same time, selection criteria needs to screen for candidates that the communities will most likely be able to retain over the long run. Retention is key to achieving the goal of economic development.
Existing federal programs and other economic class streams such as the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) give us a strong sense of how to foster retention under the MNP.
Yes, candidates with a job offer should be prioritized. But even if a candidate does not have a job offer, they should still be selected so long as they demonstrate ties to the community. These ties can be demonstrated through the likes of completing post-secondary education in the municipality, obtaining post-graduation work experience there, and having family members there.
Of course, participating communities also need to do their part to foster retention. For instance, they need to support welcoming environments for newcomers within the municipality and also need to make settlement and integration supports available to immigrants who may need help after gaining permanent residence through the MNP.
Fortunately, there is plenty of success stories across Canada that MNP communities can learn from to foster their own success.
It remains to be seen when the MNP will formally launch, but we should hear more about it from IRCC in 2020.
Kareem El-Assal is the Director of Policy & Digital Strategy at CanadaVisa.
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