Canada announces higher immigration targets

The plan aims to fill jobs in key sectors, including the skilled trades.

Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister Trudeau takes part in a citizenship ceremony at Acadia University in Nova Scotia. – Government of Canada

Key Takeaways:

  • Canada plans to raise its immigration levels to 500,000 per year by 2025.
  • Officials say it is part of their strategy to fill roles in key sectors, including the skilled trades.
  • Construction leaders believe the plan could help put a dent in the industry’s labour crisis

The Whole Story:

Canada has announced a major shift in its immigration strategy to address the country’s worker shortage. 

Government officials stated that the 2023–2025 Immigration Levels Plan embraces immigration as a strategy to help businesses find workers and to attract the skills required in key sectors—including health care, skilled trades, manufacturing and technology.

Last year Canada welcomed over 405,000 newcomers – the most ever in a single year. But officials are bumping targets up in the new plan. They are looking to add 465,000 permanent residents in 2023, 485,000 in 2024 and 500,000 in 2025. Officials added that the plan also brings an increased focus on attracting newcomers to different regions of the country, including small towns and rural communities.

Bill Ferreira, executive director of BuildForce Canada, said he believes the changes are a good step towards addressing the construction industry’s shortage or skilled workers. 

“It’s a positive announcement that recognizes immigration as an important supplement to the development of Canada’s future labour force,” said Ferreira. “The rise in economic immigration levels should help Canada replenish its workforce as retirements grow throughout the decade.”

Ferreira explained that with nearly 20 percent of Canada’s current population between the ages of 50 and 64 and only 16 per cent under the age of 15, it’s clear that over the next 15 years, the country will see more people leaving the workforce than available to backfill for retirees. 

“Clearly, increased immigration will be important to avoid turning the current acute labour shortages facing the country into a chronic challenge for employers,” he said. “The introduction of new features to the Express Entry system that prioritizes the selection of individuals with skills in high demand, including construction trades, health care, manufacturing and STEM workers, is extremely positive and a welcome complement to the industry’s ongoing efforts to increase recruitment in the face of growing retirements.”  

The Canadian Construction Association (CCA), which has been advocating for the federal government to modernize its immigration policy, stated it is optimistic the changes could beneficial.

CCA President Mary Van Buren explained that she hopes the impact will be twofold: prioritization of skilled workers interested in construction, and partnerships with the provinces to better match needs and accelerate approvals.

“We are supportive of ideas that will help Canada become a preferred destination, and that we can accept those who are interested and qualified to entry with minimal delay,” she said. “Canada is just one of many countries wanting to attract these same people.”

However, she noted that the work is far from over. The CCA and its members will be in Ottawa Nov. 15 for Hill Day to speak with Canada’s political leaders and advocate for the construction sector.

“The announcements are a positive step in the right direction; we need to see real movement and urgency,” said Van Buren. “Our message for Hill Day will not change – we expect the labour shortage to be a problem for the foreseeable future.  There are other barriers that need to be addressed like Security Clearances, which can make it difficult for New Canadians to get approved on a timely basis.  A one stop security passport is one way the Federal government could maintain the integrity of the security evaluations, while reducing red tape.”

The plan also received support from Canada’s Building Trades Unions (CBTU).

“Canada’s Building Trades Unions are pleased with today’s announcement to increase immigration levels in Canada,” said Sean Strickland, CBTU executive director, in the government announcement. “Historically it has been through immigration that we have been able to grow our workforce, fill our union halls and build Canada’s infrastructure. Increased economic immigration is an important step to addressing labour availability across the country and we look forward to continuing to work closely with Minister Fraser and the federal government to find the solutions we need going forward.”

Highlights of the plan include:

  • a long-term focus on economic growth, with just over 60 per cent of admissions in the economic class by 2025.
  • using new features in the Express Entry system to welcome newcomers with the required skills and qualifications in sectors facing acute labour shortages such as, health care, manufacturing, building trades and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
  • increases in regional programs to address targeted local labour market needs, through the Provincial Nominee Program, the Atlantic Immigration Program, and the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot.
  • support for global crises by providing a safe haven to those facing persecution, including by expanding the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot.

Ottawa explained that regional economic immigration programs, like the Provincial Nominee Program, are increasingly important to the sustainable growth of the country. 

“That’s why this year’s plan outlines year-over-year growth so that we can continue to support provinces and territories in attracting the skilled newcomers they need to address the labour shortage and demographic challenges in their regions,” they said.

They noted that the government has made improvements to address key challenges faced by those using the immigration system, including streamlining and digitalizing the immigration system to further expedite processing. 

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