Last week the Ontario Government released a Rural Roadmap outlining key government priorities aimed at building on the strengths of Ontario’s rural communities. The six priorities outlined in the report are of great interest to REAPontario and our partners, including a commitment to grow the digital economy and improve broadband connectivity, better connect policies and programs to reflect the needs of rural communities, and especially
“continuing to revitalize communities, create jobs and grow local and regional economies through the Rural Economic Development Program.”
Rural Roadmap outlines what the Ontario government has done, is doing and intends to do on the rural front. There is no new information in the Roadmap , but what is of interest to us is the prominence of “newcomers” as one of four populations of focus in the report, alongside youth, seniors, and aboriginals. It is somewhat disappointing that only demographic trends appear to be at the heart of the focus on newcomers, with the report noting that further immigration will be required to keep our labour force up to industry demands. (We at REAPontario believe that immigrants can enrich rural areas in a variety of ways, not just by alleviating demographic trends.)
Rural Roadmap points to several Ontario initiatives of importance to newcomers and rural communities, with text below largely excerpted from the report:
A New Direction: Ontario’s Immigration Strategy (November2012) in which the objectives include attracting a skilled workforce and building a stronger economy; helping newcomers and their families achieve success; and leveraging the global connections of Ontario’s diverse communities.
Ontario Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) in which Ontario nominates investors, international students and skilled foreign workers and their families for permanent resident status based on their ability to contribute economically to the province. Nominees must then apply to the federal government for Canadian permanent resident status. Ontario’s nominations allocation has risen from 1300 in 2013 to 2500 in 2014.
Municipal Immigration Information Online (MIIO), commonly referred to as “immigration portals.” This program of the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration funds the development of municipal government online hubs which deliver local immigration information and work to attract and integrate newcomers into Ontario communities, including rural communities that immigrants might not otherwise consider.
Community Immigrant Retention in Rural Ontario (CIRRO), which provides information and best practices on attracting and retaining newcomers for future economic prosperity. Since 2011, over 200 individuals have been trained on the CIRRO approach.
Ontario Immigration Act (introduced February 2014) affirms the government’s commitment to existing settlement and integration programs across the province, including those in rural and Northern Ontario.
The above are all notable initiatives of the Ontario government, though the only one with an explicit rural focus is CIRRO. The immigration portals also cover numerous rural regions across Ontario and have given these regions latitude to promote themselves to would-be newcomers.
If our readers would like more information on any of the above initiatives, contact us and we can devote future blog posts accordingly.
Sarah Wayland, Principal Investigator