May 27, 2010
Toronto Star

Nicholas Keung

Ottawa should pass on the administration of immigration settlement services to the province, says the University of Toronto’s Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation.

The transfer of responsibility would mean an injection of millions of dollars into the province’s coffers while the federal government would further distance itself from the immigration business – part of a global trend, according to the report being released by the centre Friday.

The downloading of settlement services to the province has been a sensitive issue, with immigrant groups worried funding now dedicated to newcomer programs, such as language and job training, would wind up in the province’s general revenues if Ontario assumed responsibility.

However, the report says the transfer could reduce duplication of services and streamline reporting by agencies. Right now some programs are jointly funded by and must report to both levels of government.

The Mowat Centre’s report comes on the heels of the expiry of Ottawa’s $920 million five-year agreement for new immigration funding for Ontario, which was meant to help newcomers assimilate into the province’s communities. About half of all new arrivals to the country settle in Ontario.

Ottawa and the province recently announced an extension of the pact to 2011 while renegotiations are underway.

The province has lobbied to take over the administration of settlement dollars from the federal government, which funds and contracts groups such as community agencies and school boards to deliver newcomer services. Ottawa so far has showed little interest in such a plan.

However, the province’s lobbying prompted the 200-member Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) to organize province-wide consultations and release a discussion paper on the issue last year.

The agency warned the downloading of settlement funding could see funds siphoned off by the province into general revenues. It also said the province does not currently have the manpower or resources to handle a large infusion of settlement funds.

The Mowat Centre report found that the five-year immigration agreement helped to expand Ontario’s language classes by 76 per cent, with 40 additional career-bridging programs introduced last year alone.


Reference: Toronto Star