This is the second in a series of two posts about the findings I’ll be presenting next week in Toronto at the IPAC-PPM Cities and Public Policy conference. The previous post dealt with the mismanagement of homelessness in Winnipeg. This one focuses on the achievement of deep federalism in the administration of immigration and settlement in Winnipeg. In both entries, the overarching theme is that slow-growth cities have policy problems that are very different from those of cities that are growing rapidly, and that these differences are not being given the attention they deserve.
Vancouver and Toronto, like many rapidly-growing cities, are inundated in immigrants. Their biggest problem is providing adequate settlement and integration services. Winnipeg, like many slow-growth communities, gets few immigrants and suffers from labour shortages. Its challenge is to figure out how to use immigration as a means of addressing the labour shortages.
The Manitoba government began pursuing immigration as early as the 1970s, partly because of a consensus, at least among elite groups, which would be considered remarkable in many other jurisdictions. Because of labour shortages, and because of slow growth, in Manitoba as a whole and in Winnipeg in particular, the business community wanted immigration to address the shortages and the City of Winnipeg wanted to expand its tax base and population, and to revitalize decaying neighbourhoods with new residents. The right wanted economic growth and more workers, and the left wanted to meet humanitarian goals while building a more diverse society.
In the Canada-Manitoba Agreement on immigration and settlement, the provincial government won the right to nominate immigrants and oversee their integration. The government has done the kind of listening to the community in this case that the federal government failed to do in the case of the National Homelessness Initiative, and has, in the process, made deep federalism work. It established relationships with community groups that were interested in promoting immigration, such as the Société franco-manitobaine, which was looking for French-speakers to come to St. Boniface, the French Quarter; and the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, which, initially, wanted to rescue Jewish Argentinians from the economic collapse there and later sought to bring in Jewish immigrants from other countries.
Thanks to a plethora of community alliances, the provincial government was able, first to lobby for a provincial nominee program for Manitoba and then, with the help of feedback from the community, to develop a workable set of programs for bringing immigrants to Manitoba, connecting them with jobs, and ensuring they had the services they needed to integrate. The program is widely recognized as a model, and it demonstrates that, in a number of policy areas – not all policy areas by any means – there is available knowledge and wisdom at the community level that can be tapped by governments at all levels to produce better policy.
Governments need to work harder at figuring out ways of drawing on the skills and knowledge that are available in communities everywhere, to help achieve governance that respects community difference in national policy, and in policy at all levels of government.
For more detail on immigration and settlement in Winnipeg, look up:
Christopher Leo and Martine August. “The Multi-Level Governance of Immigration and Settlement: Making Deep Federalism Work.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 42 (2), 2009, pp. 491-510. To look at a draft of the article click here.