2020 consultations on immigration levels and the Municipal Nominee Program – final report

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Overview and context

In the summer of 2020, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) conducted a multifaceted outreach and consultation initiative to inform the 2021 immigration levels plan. While IRCC conducts an engagement and consultation exercise annually for the development of the levels plan, this year’s consultations included a discussion on the development of the Municipal Nominee Program (MNP). Engagement included questions about COVID-19, such as the impacts being felt by stakeholders, and how immigration could support short-term and long-term recovery efforts.

An online stakeholder survey was conducted and virtual cross-Canada roundtable discussions were hosted by the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary. In addition to these activities, IRCC has engaged extensively with provinces and territories about immigration levels planning as well as regional programs. Federal-provincial-territorial consultation on levels planning is a requirement of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and guided by a jointly developed consultation framework. As well, levels planning takes into account public opinion research, labour market information, and immigrant outcomes. Footnote 1

The findings summarized in this report reflect only the views of those who participated in the consultations. Results should not be projected as representative of the entire Canadian population, or of all IRCC stakeholders. Furthermore, percentages have been rounded to whole numbers, and as a result, totals may not add up to 100.

Immigration levels

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act requires the Minister of IRCC to table a projection of permanent resident admissions (the levels plan) in Parliament every year. The immigration levels plan details how many immigrants Canada will welcome as permanent residents under the economic, family, and refugee and humanitarian programs.

For ease of reference, see the full 2021 Immigration Levels Plan.

Municipal Nominee Program

In 2019, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship was mandated to “Introduce a Municipal Nominee Program (MNP) that will allow local communities, chambers of commerce and local labour councils to directly sponsor permanent immigrants. At least 5,000 new spaces will be dedicated for this program.” This commitment reflects the important role communities play in welcoming and retaining newcomers to Canada, and builds on Canada’s experience in innovative and regionally focused immigration programming that responds to the unique demographic and labour market needs of different areas of the country.

Consultation methods

1. Online stakeholder survey

From June 29 to July 20, 2020, a total of 1,873 stakeholder organizations were invited by email to read background information and participate in an online survey (see Annex A). Participants were advised that they could share the survey details within their organization. The surveys were conducted in the respondents’ official language of choice. Respondents had the opportunity to provide answers to questions on immigration levels and/or the MNP. IRCC received a total of 394 completed surveys, of which 248 included responses to MNP-related questions. Stakeholders included, but were not limited to, non-profit organizations, settlement or resettlement organizations, academia, government bodies, employers or businesses, chambers of commerce, francophone or official language minority communities, and industry or sector councils. See Annex B for the list of participating stakeholders.

Survey response distribution

Region of operation
Province/Territory Response %
National organization Footnote 2 7%
Territories (Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories, Nunavut) 3%
British Columbia 14%
Alberta 19%
Saskatchewan & Manitoba 18%
Ontario 43%
Quebec Footnote 3 2%
Atlantic Canada (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador) 19%
Organization type
Primary focus of stakeholder organization Footnote 4 Response %
Academia, research foundation, or think tank 11%
Chamber of commerce or board of trade 3%
Employer or business 8%
Francophone or official language minority community 3%
Government (federal, provincial or territorial, municipal or regional administration) 10%
Indigenous, First Nations, or Inuit organization 0%
Industry or sector council 2%
Non-profit organization 25%
Settlement or resettlement organization 22%
Other (including but not limited to advocacy groups, health care, legal services, immigration consultants) 16%

1.1 Key findings on immigration levels

Purpose of immigration

When asked to rank from 1 to 3 (with 1 being the most important) the most important reason for Canada to have a robust immigration program, 33% identified filling labour market gaps and bringing new skills as the number one reason. This was followed closely by 29% identifying supporting Canada’s economic recovery as the most important reason for a robust immigration program.

Similarly, when respondents were asked about how their work has been affected by COVID-19, and the role immigration could play in their own recovery efforts, in open ended responses, the highest proportion of submissions (21%) indicated filling labour gaps or shortages. And looking to the longer-term, in open ended responses, 23% said immigration will help contribute to the economy and business continuity.

When looking at regional distribution, stakeholders in the north (Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories, Nunavut) indicated stronger support for family reunification as the leading objective for immigration. The western and central provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario) specified filling labour market gaps and supporting Canada’s economic recovery as the main goals to drive Canada’s immigration system. And the eastern provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador) presented more variation in their responses regarding the purpose of immigration, by indicating their support for economic recovery, filling labour market gaps, reuniting families and supporting community development.

Question: Which of the following would you say are the most important reasons for Canada to have a robust immigration program in 2021? Please rank up to 3 factors by typing 1, 2, and 3 into the text boxes, with 1 as the most important.
Reason most often selected as the #1 ranking Response %
Fill labour market gaps and bring new skills 33%
Reunite families 9%
Support humanitarian commitments 7%
Increase Canada’s population 5%
Support community development 10%
Contribute to Canada’s diversity 3%
Support Canada’s economic recovery 29%
Support the development of minority official languages communities 3%

Immigration levels and mix

Respondents were asked for their views on the immigration levels plan in the context of the global pandemic. A majority of respondents (75%) supported the continued use of a multi-year approach to immigration levels planning, rather than tabling an annual immigration levels plan.

When asked about the current notional target for 2021 (i.e., 351,000 newcomers) and assuming that travel restrictions have been lifted in order to facilitate permanent resident admissions, 45% of respondents indicated the target was too few, and 42% felt it was about right.

A slightly larger proportion of participating stakeholders in the Atlantic Provinces (55%) indicated that the current notional target for 2021 was for too few immigrants.

When asked about the current level of immigrants per class, the large majority of respondents indicated that notional levels for 2021 were about right or too few for all the classes. When asked about notional 2021 levels for the economic class, 43% of respondents indicated they believed those levels were about right. Similarly, 47% said levels in the family class were about right. Participants were split for the refugees, protected persons, and humanitarian categories, with 40% saying notional 2021 levels were about right and another 40% indicating levels were too few.

Question: Canada’s immigration target for 2020 of 341,000 permanent resident admissions will not be met due to the impacts of COVID-19. Thinking forward to 2021, if travel restrictions are lifted, the current plan sets a notional target to welcome 351,000 newcomers (approximately 0.92% of Canada’s population). For each of the following immigration classes and the overall total, do you feel that this would be too many, too few or about the right number of immigrants coming to Canada?
Response %
Overall total (351,000)
Too many 6%
Too few 45%
About right 42%
Don’t know 8%
Economic (203,050)
Too many 11%
Too few 42%
About right 43%
Don’t know 5%
Family (91,000)
Too many 4%
Too few 43%
About right 47%
Don’t know 6%
Refugees, protected persons, and humanitarian (56,950)
Too many 10%
Too few 40%
About right 40%
Don’t know 11%

Furthermore, when asked about immigration levels beyond 2022, the majority of respondents (62%) said they would like to see levels increase, whereas a quarter of respondents (25%) indicated levels should stabilize at 361,000 immigrants per year.

If immigration levels were to increase, 59% of respondents indicated that economic immigration should be prioritized over the family class and the refugee and protected persons class.

Question: If immigration levels were to increase, in which immigration class would you prioritize growth?
Response %
Economic 59%
Family 14%
Refugees and protected persons 19%
Don’t know 8%

However, if immigration levels were to decrease, nearly half of respondents (45%) did not know which of the classes should be reduced.

Question: If immigration levels were to decrease, in which immigration class would you recommend a decrease?
Response %
Economic 25%
Family 9%
Refugees and protected persons 21%
Don’t know 45%

1.2. Key findings on Municipal Nominee Program

The online survey invited stakeholders across the country to share their views on the general direction and objective of the MNP, which is in the early stages of development. When asked about the main objective of the program, most respondents agreed that increasing the role of communities in the immigration landscape (50%) and distributing the benefits of immigration to underserved communities (41%) should be priorities for the MNP to address. Only 9% of respondents selected “other” as their response to this question.

Given the wording of the mandate commitment, selecting and supporting Canadian communities will be a key design feature of the MNP. When asked what criteria should be used to select participating MNP communities, 79% surveyed ranked labour shortages as the top indicator, and experience in welcoming and retaining newcomers a close second at 58%.

As a place-based immigration program, 54% of respondents felt that high retention rates would be a key indicator of success for the MNP. This builds on lessons learned from RNIP and AIP about the role of retention in catering to the immigration needs of underserved communities.

Question: What would be the most important indicator of success for the MNP?
Response %
High retention rates in selected municipalities/communities 54%
Increased immigration to underserved communities 22%
Long-term role for municipalities/communities in immigration landscape 18%
Other, please specify: 6%

2. Roundtable sessions with the Minister and Parliamentary Secretary

From August 13 to September 11, 2020, the Minister of IRCC hosted 6 roundtable sessions, and the Parliamentary Secretary hosted 1, with stakeholders across Canada. Virtual roundtables were held with representatives from all provinces and territories, except Quebec, where the Quebec government is responsible for immigration planning. Departmental officials moderated all sessions.

Participants included 58 representatives of stakeholder organizations, including but not limited to settlement and resettlement provider organizations, labour organizations, multicultural and ethno-cultural associations, municipalities, academia and Chambers of commerce.

Consult Annex C for a complete list of roundtable dates and participating organizations.

To help guide the roundtable sessions, participants received copies of a discussion guide that included background information as well as discussion questions grouped into 2 topics: 1) immigration levels; and 2) the Municipal Nominee Program.

The full discussion document appears as Annex D.

Following each roundtable session, participants were invited to provide written feedback on the discussion questions by email. IRCC received a total of 12 follow-up submissions.

2.1. Key findings on immigration levels, including COVID-19 impacts

Stakeholders across the country were asked:

  1. As a result of COVID-19:
    1. What changes do you foresee to how you/your sector operate(s) in the short term and in the long term?
    2. What role do you see immigration playing in your recovery efforts in the short term and long term?
  2. Subject to potential impacts, changes or shifts due to COVID-19, the current plan sets a notional target for 2021 to welcome 351,000 newcomers and in 2022 to welcome 361,000 newcomers. What are your views on this levels trajectory, and where do you think levels should go in 2023?
  3. What priorities should form our immigration planning and mix in the short term and in the long term?

Acknowledgement of the disruptions and impacts of COVID-19 was a recurring topic in the ministerial roundtables. Many participating stakeholders noted that they have switched to digitizing services and operations. While some stakeholders noted that this shift has brought about innovation and collaboration, others noted the accompanying challenges—particularly for some newcomers who have low digital literacy skills or do not have access to the tools necessary to utilize online services.

Participating stakeholders expressed widespread recognition for the importance of immigration, and Canada’s role in welcoming newcomers. However, when it came to how many newcomers Canada should be welcoming as permanent residents, participants had mixed opinions. Some felt the current immigration levels were about right, others felt they were too high and cited the need to evaluate the ever-evolving situation, and some felt levels were too low and should be increased to make up for the shortfall in 2020 due to the pandemic. Should immigration levels be increased, many participants noted concern over the need to calibrate municipal or community infrastructure capacity, settlement supports and digital service availability.

While participants were divided on immigration levels, there was strong support for prioritizing the economic class in order to help meet labour market needs and support economic recovery. At the same time, many participants also noted the importance of family reunification and refugee resettlement. Some participants also raised a desire to see pathways to permanent residency for temporary residents (including those in low-skilled categories), including temporary foreign workers and international students.

Additionally, francophone stakeholders noted the importance of meeting the 2023 target of 4.4% of permanent resident admissions that should comprise French-speakers who settle outside of Quebec, with some stakeholders requesting to go beyond those levels in order to make up for previous years’ shortfalls.

2.2. Key findings on the Municipal Nominee Program

Stakeholders across the country were asked:

  1. What is the key gap you see the MNP program addressing that isn’t covered well by other programming?
  2. What would success look like in the short term and long term, and what is needed to get there?

Roundtable attendees expressed a desire to see the MNP tap into local labour markets, expertise, and leverage established networks. Overall, support for the MNP remains high as stakeholders continue to view it as an opportunity to distribute the benefits of economic immigration to underserved communities, especially those that suffered economically due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout roundtable discussions, it remained clear that high retention outcomes will likely be a main indicator of success for the MNP. In order to retain newcomers and therefore permanently address labour market needs, stakeholders agreed that communities must be selected based on their existing critical infrastructure and settlement capacity. The MNP should strive to address existing labour market gaps, but also to complement other economic immigration programs/pilots. The desire to see programming that considers the needs of francophone communities, and provides an immigration pathway for temporary residents, international students, and skilled refugees were key topics of conversation. Participants advocated for the creation of multilateral partnerships at local, provincial and federal levels in order to ensure that communities are supported while learning to navigate the immigration system, and to ensure that the MNP does not add to the complexity of the immigration system by duplicating existing programming.


Annex A: Online consultation survey

Annex B: Online survey – participating stakeholders

Organization name

Annex C: Roundtable schedule and participating organizations

August 13, 2020 – Participating National Immigration Stakeholders:

August 18, 2020 – Participating Francophone Immigration Stakeholders:

August 31, 2020 – Participating Atlantic Immigration Stakeholders:

September 2, 2020 – Participating Northern Immigration Stakeholders:

September 3, 2020 – Participating British Columbia Immigration Stakeholders:

September 8, 2020 – Participating Prairies Immigration Stakeholders:

September 10, 2020 – Participating Ontario Immigration Stakeholders:

Annex D: Discussion guide and questions

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