Engaging business communities in attracting immigrants to smaller communities and addressing shortages in the labour force in Canada were the main topics discussed with the Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Marie-France Lalonde in the 7th installment of the Great Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Recovery Series on July 29, 2022.
“Ottawa wants Atlantic communities to thrive” Lalonde said. She explained that the federal government is dedicated to assisting Canada’s smaller communities, like Prince Edward Island, to address challenges like skilled-worker shortages and difficulties attracting immigrants.
Bill DeBlois, the president of the Great Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce asked a series of questions to Lalonde on behalf of Charlottetown’s business sector, including ones regarding the federal government’s upcoming changes that will help fill PEI’s growing labour shortage problem.
Lalonde explained that the federal government regards immigration as a part of a “… deliberate economic-growth mindset.” She said, Canada must continue to increase and expand immigration to ensure that “…we have the means to provide services.” She said the federal government has plans to continue to increase the number of permanent residents annually with an estimated 470,000 new approvals set for 2023 and 451,000 for 2024.
She spoke about the federal government’s recent changes and initiatives regarding immigration including the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP) and the amendments in Bill C-19 regarding Express Entry. The EMPP helps skilled refugees immigrate to Canada through existing programs. Lalonde also said she hopes the new changes to Express Entry, in which the federal government will engage with businesses, will help alleviate some of the strain regarding labour shortages.
DeBlois stressed that healthcare is one sector on PEI facing major labour shortages. He said four family doctors have recently left PEI. He asked how the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC) could help international health professionals immigrate to PEI.
“The federal government supports the provinces. We’ve invested $60 billion in transfers to the provinces to help them.” Lalonde answered.
She also said that health care is a provincial jurisdiction and provincial politicians must address foreign credentials in local legislation. “We need legislation within provinces.” She said, adding that there must also be consultation with provincial medical associations as well.
Lalonde said the federal government wants to work in partnership with the provinces to address the shortage of medical professionals across the nation, especially in the wake of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic which has strained the healthcare systems across Canada leading many healthcare professionals to suffer burnout and to change professions.