British Columbia’s economic growth depends on having enough skilled and qualified people to meet labour market needs. The BC Provincial Nominee Program (BC PNP) supports BC employers to attract and retain needed talent. It acts as a critical tool to meet BC’s labour market and economic development needs and priorities. British Columbian employers will require more labour than is available within the province over the next decade, therefore increased access to high-demand immigrant workers through the BC PNP is necessary to help fill labour and skills shortages in order to support economic growth in the province.
BC is expected to have 861,000 job openings between 2019 to 2029. This includes the creation of over 200,000 new jobs due to economic growth and the need to replace approximately 600,000 workers who will permanently leave the workforce, mainly due to retirements. 
In contrast, the number of people available for work is growing more slowly, as population growth decreases and the gap between births and deaths narrows. Having enough trained workers to meet future needs will be a challenge. The Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, has acknowledged this challenge will be addressed, in part, by immigration. It is expected that immigrants will fill about 27% of forecasted job openings between now and 2029, with in-migrants and people entering the labour market for the first-time accounting for another fifty-eight percent of new workers. The remaining 15% of job opportunities remain vacant throughout BC during this period.
In 2017, the Government of Canada adopted a historic multi-year levels plan to responsibly grow annual immigration to Canada. In the 2018 Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada reported that more than 286,000 permanent residents were welcomed to the country in 2017. Over half of new immigrants that year were admitted through economic classes, including provincial nominees. The federal government’s annual immigration target for 2021 is 350,000, an increase of 22.4% over actual immigration levels in 2017. 60% of growth is anticipated in the economic class, which is expected to help sustain the national labour force, support economic growth and spur innovation, as well as help to meet specific regional labour market needs, especially through Provincial Nominee programs.
Immigration to BC through the Provincial Nominee Program is administered in partnership with the federal government in accordance with the 2015 Canada-British Columbia Immigration Agreement (CBCIA), whereby the Federal government allocates a limited number of nominations each year to the BC PNP program. Potential BC PNP applicants, with support of eligible B.C. employers, complete a registration and are ranked based on the Skills Immigration Registration Scoring (SIRS). Subsequently, the BC PNP invites the highest ranked applicants to apply for permanent residence.
Growing demand on the program from BC employers looking to immigration as a solution to address labour needs is evident by the BC PNP SIRS scores soaring to historic heights. In 2018, the number of registrations from candidates with full-time, indeterminate job offers from eligible employers in BC increased 31.3% over 2017. By contrast, the federal government allocation of nominations to BC only increased 8.3% during this time. The number of nominations allocated to BC in 2019 did not increase at all despite continually growing demand in the program from employers eager to attract and retain workers. The result is a short fall between the growth in demand from employers seeking to attract and retain employees through the BC PNP and the number of nominations available.
A total of 66% of all economic immigrants arriving in Canada in 2017 were destined to BC, Ontario and Quebec. By 2021, federal immigration levels are projected to increase by 22.4% over 2017 and , as a result the actual number of immigrants destined to BC will continue to increase. BC employers need greater access to the provincial nominee program through increased federal allocation of nominations in order to successfully attract and retain immigrants with the skills, education and experience to fill high-demand and support economic growth.
The Chamber Recommends
That the Provincial Government:
- Encourage the Government of Canada to expand the Provincial Nominee Program and increase total number of available nominations to help employers attract and retain employees with the skills, experience and qualifications required to fill current and future job openings in their provinces;
- Negotiate a higher allocation of nominations from the Government of Canada in line with the increases in the Federal Government’s economic immigration targets to help BC employers attract and retain employees with the skills, experience and qualifications required to fill current and future job openings that are expected to continue increasing;
- Provide transparency around the regional points allocation covered under the SIRS scoring system and make adjustments to ensure it accounts for:
- Regional unemployment rates; and
- priority to sectors of the economy as identified by the federal and provincial governments.