Ontario Plans to Raise Funding for Immigrants

Omar El Akkad, Globe and Mail (Toronto), Oct. 19

The amount of money Ontario spends helping new immigrants get settled in Canada is set to quadruple in the next few weeks.

Mike Colle, the province’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, said yesterday the government is “very close” to increasing the amount for each immigrant to $3,400 from about $800. The money is used to provide immigrants with language lessons, job training and other services.

“We know that without money, they won’t succeed,” Mr. Colle said. “They just need a little money up front.”

Mr. Colle refused to give a specific date for the increased funding, but Dana O’Brien, Mr. Colle’s spokeswoman, later said the money should be in the province’s hands within the next few weeks.

In May, 2004, provincial and federal Liberal leaders signed a memorandum stating Ontario’s funding for each immigrant would rise to $3,400 within five years.

In the past, Mr. Colle has said the money is coming soon, but the province has yet to see any of it.

Ontario is the only province that doesn’t have an immigration agreement with Ottawa.

Because of this, Ontario receives far less funding than any other province.

Even after quadrupling the amount for each immigrant, Ontario would still lag behind Quebec, which spends about $3,600.

Ontario takes in more than half the immigrants to Canada every year. Of 235,000 new Canadians last year, 125,000 ended up in Ontario. The vast majority—100,000—moved to Toronto.

Ontario is heavily dependent on its immigrants to preserve population growth. Almost 30 per cent of the current population is immigrant-based.

Mr. Colle, an Italian immigrant, said his ministry is working to attract more immigrants to the province in order to create a work force capable of competing with cities such as Bangalore and Beijing in an increasingly global economy.

Ontario is planning to build economic development and trade offices in cities such as Tokyo and Paris to attract new immigrants.

The ministry also intends to launch a website in the near future—no specific date has been given—to market Ontario.

“We need immigrants to keep the economy buoyant,” Mr. Colle said.

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