A question posed at the outset of this study asked whether, and how, Ontario should extend or redesign its nascent PNP to make vulnerable lower-skilled workers eligible to be nominated for permanent residency in the province. In light of experiences elsewhere, Ontario should consider at least two general insights that follow from the preceding analysis.
(1) Employer-driven recruitment and nominee selection processes place serious limitations on the opportunities to address foreign workers’ employment-related insecurities through the PNPs. While these program, in principle, should address workers’ temporary status as a cause of their insecurities, current design and practice do not go much further than to perpetuate the imbalances in bargaining power built into federal TFWPs. Understood from this perspective, PNPs act less as a “response” to the problems of temporary status and more as a extension of existing trends. While provinces such as Manitoba have innovated significant legislative reforms and promoted third-party participation in order to correct some of these imbalances, Ontario should also consider alternative models for provincial economic immigration, with the overarching goal being to reduce employers’ reliance on TFWPs and to put decision-making power back into the public hands. Nothing in the federal-provincial framework agreements on immigration would seem to preclude a strategy that moves away from employer-led immigration. Indeed, the emphasis in these agreements on federal-provincial cooperation is an encouraging orientation along these lines.
(2) In jurisdictions where PNPs are likely to remain employer-driven, provincial and federal governments should work together to ensure strong regulatory standards and to take the lead in settlement service provision. In spite of concerns about employer-led immigration programs as a whole, some worker advocates are likely to argue that existing PNP models remain the only options available for lower-skilled individuals to acquire permanent residency status and to realize the full, long-term benefits of the economies that these workers themselves have helped to build. While governments should clearly work to cultivate the participation of third-parties such as organized labour, as well as responsible employers, decision-makers should also be aware of the significant risks posed by vacating key areas that impact on workers’ insecurities and the potential for uneven and unequal outcomes for workers both within and between provincial jurisdictions. As Ontario considers its options going forward, it should actively consult with these third-party actors and assess carefully, in context, their various strengths and capacities to supplement public policy and action.
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