Sask. minister says ask to feds on immigration ‘is about the economy’

Part of the motivation to change the program as it exists is to expand the number of people allowed to settle in the province each year from outside of Canada.

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Jeremy Harrison says the Government of Saskatchewan knows what’s best for the province when it comes to immigration, and as such, should have a greater role in the process.

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The minister of immigration and career training, as well as trade and export development, Harrison said last week in a news release that the province wanted “the same deal as Quebec.”

But where Quebec has a greater say over immigration due to culture, language and other considerations, Harrison says Saskatchewan’s case is a bit more straightforward.

“What this really is about is the economy,” he said Tuesday, speaking to the media about the proposed Saskatchewan Immigration Accord for the first time.

“What we’re asking for, essentially, is to have under that program authority for the selection of all migration into the province, which is something that Quebec enjoys.”

That greater autonomy means, in part, more immigrants coming to the province filling hard-to-fill positions in the economy like in construction and the service industry, Harrison said. Already the Saskatchewan government has launched a pilot program set to fill what Harrison described as “acute” labor shortages in health, manufacturing, agriculture, ag-tech, construction, hospitality and retail sectors.

The minister said that the province is in the best position to decide what it needs in terms of inflow of people and, they can move faster than the feds.

“They’re taking upwards of 40 months right now to actually process immigration requests. We’re taking between two to six weeks to process on the selection side of the equation,” said Harrison, adding that he felt the 40-month timeline is unacceptable.

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But as for processing and admitting immigrants, the federal government would remain responsible for the security screening, clearance and ultimate approval of people into the country. When pressed on the matter Harrison said that if the provinces were able to sort out the selection of immigrants then the feds could focus resources solely on security, hopefully cutting down the timelines.

Part of the motivation to change the program as it exists is to expand the number of people allowed to settle in the province each year from outside of Canada. This year the province expects to exceed the 6,000 person cap placed on immigration as part of the current Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program and would like to increase the cap to 13,000.

Asked if 13,000 people try to immigrate to Saskatchewan each year Harrison said yes and he expects even more people would attempt to try.

When the announcement was made last week that the province would seek this new deal, organizations like the Saskatoon Open Door Society said changes would be welcome, but, there should be a process of consultation done with organizations settling recent immigrants to the province.

Harrison said there will be consultations done along the way and should the federal government reject the proposal the province may consider legal action, although that’s not the avenue the province wants to take.

In its announcement, the province called this new program the Saskatchewan Immigration Accord and explained the four asks as giving “Saskatchewan sole authority to nominate newcomers moving to Saskatchewan, control over the family class of immigration, a transfer of federal resources for settlement services to the Province of Saskatchewan and a guaranteed provincial allocation of nominees each year that would be proportionate to the population of Saskatchewan.”

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