Manitoba’s Provincial Nominee Program a Model For Economic Growth in Canada
Immigration supports economic growth—we’ve discussed this before in past posts and articles. Still, it’s one thing to discuss the theory behind economic immigration and another to showcase the benefits.
Thankfully, a recent op-ed by Kareem El-Assal from the Conference Board of Canada gives us an opportunity to take a closer look at how immigration can help turn around local economies.
And best of all, we get to do this by talking about a beloved Canadian institution: hockey.
Struggling Economy, Struggling Hockey Team
Back in 1996, facing serious financial challenges, the Winnipeg Jets left Winnipeg for Phoenix, Arizona. For years, the sports club had been struggling with cash flow and revenue. In November of 1991, local business leaders and the municipal and provincial government created a fund from which the team could withdraw money for management funds, which gave renewed life to the club.
What’s more, the team came to an agreement with the city of Winnipeg and its taxpayers, who created a public corporation that owned 36% of the team. This public corporation funded the team’s operating losses to help the Jets through these troubling times.
Sadly, it didn’t last.
A lockout soon cut the 1994-1995 season short. Meanwhile, the struggling Canadian dollar (worth only $0.72 USD at the time) took a toll amidst rising salaries for players. The writing was on the wall, and the Jets soon left to become the Phoenix Coyotes.
This was a huge loss for Winnipeg, not only in terms of economic potential but in local identity and pride. The Jets had been a team and local fixture since 1972, and their loss hit the city hard.
But there was some good news: this loss got local business leaders thinking.
Manitoba’s Innovative PNP Model
As Kareem El-Assal writes in his piece for the Conference Board, the loss of the Jets was a catalyst for change. Following the departure of the team, several members of Winnipeg’s business community put their heads together. They formed an organization that continues to operate today, now known as the Business Council of Manitoba.
They recognized that if there were more people in the province, the province would have had an easier time growing and building its economy, keeping young people (and young workers) in the province with lucrative and appealing jobs. With a stronger economy, they might’ve had an easier time handling what the Jets went through and might even have been able to keep them.
In the mid-1990s, the Business Council (led at the time by Jim Carr, now serving as Federal Minister of International Trade Diversification) recognized the need for population growth. One of the clearest ways for Manitoba to boost its population was through immigration. In those days, the province could attract maybe 3,700 immigrants annually.
Not long after the team left, Manitoba became the first province in Canada to develop a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) in 1997. The PNP targeted workers with the skills, education, and experience needed to help contribute to the provincial economy. What’s more, applicants were choosing to come to the province and would indicate their desire to become permanent residents.
After the introduction of the program, immigration numbers began to rise.
Fast forward to 2017. Manitoba was welcoming over 14,000 immigrants to the country, accounting for 5% of the national share of newcomers.
“In other words,” writes El-Assal, “Manitoba—which comprises four percent of Canada’s population—is now receiving more than its ‘fair share’ of immigrants.”
Immigration Contributes to “Province’s Economy and Cultural Vibrancy”
El-Assal also notes that a big part of Manitoba’s success at attracting newcomers stems from how they were able to get every level of government onboard, not to mention local businesses, business leaders, community partners, and the public at large. El-Assal quotes Manitoba’s Immigration Minister, Kelvin Goertzen, to illustrate how important this is:
“Manitobans support immigration because they see the everyday benefits of its contributions to the province’s economy and cultural vibrancy.”
Just as important are the unseen benefits, though. According to Immigrate Manitoba, the province’s PNP drives population growth (the province has had net positive growth since 2006), and without the PNP, the province’s GDP would be nearly 30% lower.
Simply put, the province became financially viable. Winnipeg was thus in an ideal position in 2011 when the Atlanta Thrashers were looking for a new home.
Not long after, the news became public: the Winnipeg Jets were coming home. On October 9, 2011, the puck dropped on centre ice at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg. To this day, games sell out regularly, and there’s a wait list for season tickets.
While several factors contributed to the team’s return, immigration was a significant driver. It helped create the conditions needed to not only attract but sustain an NHL franchise. Immigration is a massive benefit for the economy, and Manitoba’s story is just one amazing example of what’s possible when Canadians work together, opening doors to welcome newcomers.