Family first – Changes to Manitoba’s provincial nominee program impact skilled workers

On October 19, 2023, Manitoba’s Premier Wab Kinew outlined his government’s strategic priorities. These include to “work with the Federal government to increase the number of immigrants who come to and also stay in Manitoba through the Manitoba Provincial Nominee program with a focus on family reunification.”

The federal government sets an annual limit on the number of provincial nominees that Manitoba can select. By favoring applicants with family connections, the revised program inadvertently reduces opportunities for skilled workers without existing family ties to the province.

What the program is

Manitoba’s Provincial Nominee program (PNP) is a pathway for skilled workers to obtain permanent residency in the province. The program allows Manitoba to nominate candidates who meet its economic and labour market needs.

Changes to the PNP

Recently, the PNP has undergone significant changes that prioritize applicants with existing family or educational ties to the province. These changes include:

  • Introducing “Close relative in Manitoba” draws, in which foreign nationals with Canadian citizen or Canadian permanent resident relatives living in Manitoba are selected for immigration to Manitoba at lower point scores than other skilled workers.
  • Introducing “Completed post-secondary study in Manitoba” draws that prioritize international students who graduated from Manitoba post-secondary institutions over international students who studied elsewhere in Canada.

Intent of the changes

The intent of changes to the PNP is to increase the number of immigrants who stay in Manitoba – with a focus on family reunification and international students who have studied in Manitoba. The provincial government believes that having family support in the province encourages newcomers to stay in Manitoba, helps newcomers integrate better and contribute more to the overall economy and community. It also helps address Canada’s longtime MTV issue – the tendency for immigrants to reside disproportionately in the larger Canadian cities of Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver (MTV).

The reality of the changes

The reality is that the changes make it harder for skilled workers who do not have family members in Manitoba or have not studied in Manitoba to qualify for provincial nomination. In fact, with the deduction of “points” for work or study completed outside of Manitoba in another Canadian province, these individuals face more competition. Applicants with family ties now have an advantage in the points-based system. As their work permits approach expiration, these individuals (and their employers) also face uncertainty about their future in Manitoba.

Key takeaways

The government’s decision to refocus the PNP on applicants with family links and educational history in Manitoba aims to retain more newcomers but inadvertently affects those without family ties or a Manitoba education who still want to live and work in the province.

Most individuals genuinely intend to settle in Manitoba, drawn by affordable housing and a good quality of life. Judging their ability to contribute solely based on familial connections can overlook their commitment to the province. While the government’s intention to retain newcomers is commendable, striking a balance between family ties and merit-based selection remains key. As Manitoba grapples with outmigration to other provinces, policymakers must consider the impact of these changes on skilled workers who seek to call the province home.

To learn more about how these changes could impact you and your organization, contact a member of MLT Aikins Immigration team today.

On May 2, 2024 in Winnipeg, the authors will present on Canadian and U.S. immigration issues at CPHR Manitoba’s 2024 HR Legislative Review where they will discuss this issue and possible solutions.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.