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Ontario will prosper when we invest in immigrant talent

OP/ED by Margaret Eaton, executive director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC)

 For the first time in nearly 15 years, a new government has taken its seat at Queen’s Park. With support from many immigrant communities across the province, Premier Doug Ford was sworn into office as Ontario has overwhelmingly chosen the Progressive Conservative Party to lead us into the next four years. Premier Ford has indicated he will move fast on key priorities of his mandate: such as eliminating carbon tax and cutting hydro rates. But what does this election win mean for immigrants in Ontario?

The province of Ontario — and more specifically the Greater Toronto Area — is proud of its great diversity. Ontario receives the largest portion of immigrants arriving in our country — nearly 30 per cent of the province’s population were born outside of Canada.

Not only this, but almost half the people living in the Greater Toronto Area immigrated here. These numbers are likely to rise. Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen has said that nearly one million immigrants will settle in Canada between 2018 and 2020. As a country that is plagued by low birth rates and an aging population, our economy depends on newcomer professionals’ knowledge and expertise to help create and fill jobs, and pay taxes. Their contributions make Ontario a more prosperous province.

A major part of Premier Ford’s campaign messaging was about being fiscally responsible and having Ontario “open for business.” The party has said they are committed to creating wealth and they have made economic prosperity a priority, along with the vision of bringing down the province’s net debt of greater than $300 billion.

Immigrants will have a crucial role in achieving this. Immigrants bring innovation, different perspectives and an entrepreneurial spirit to contribute to our economy. We must invest in and leverage their talent. According to the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity’s 28th Working Paper published in June 2017, immigrant professionals’ incomes would increase by $15.2 billion — the equivalent to two per cent of Ontario’s GDP — if they earned wages that actually reflected their skills and experience. The immigration section of the Progressive Conservative campaign platform focused on filling skills gaps by increasing access to apprenticeships and reforming the credential recognition process to better connect newcomers to appropriate jobs immediately.

When too many newcomers are unable to find employment that matches their education, skills and expertise, this costs all of us. Ontario’s diverse communities must be equipped with the adequate skills and training opportunities to succeed in the workplace.

The Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) is ready to be a key partner with the new government and do what we can to deliver on its goals to ensure economic success is attainable for all Ontarians. It is vital to the future prosperity of our province that we all work together and all immigrants are given a chance to succeed.