Oct 30, 2019



More than a year after VSIR proposed the creation of a Municipal Nominee Program (MNP) in the Canadian Government Executive magazine, the Liberal Party of Canada pledged to support Canada’s smaller urban communities with a federal pilot that would include 5,000 spaces for new immigrants. The implementation of the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) in 1999 has help to facilitate migration to less populated parts of the country (ie., Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and the Atlantic region), but newcomers still tend to settle in Canada’s largest urban centres.   


While Canada has one of the highest urban population concentrations among the G7 nations, the bulk of its cities are relatively small. For example, the City of Vancouver only has a population of about 630,000. This is a great disadvantage in a hypercompetitive global knowledge economy dominated by entrepreneurial cities seeking to “push out” the innovation frontier. The world’s largest 600 urban centres, including 100 cities in China alone, are forecasted to generate as much as 60% of global GDP by 2025.  

VSIR Thinking Points


  • Delegating more decision-making responsibility to Canadian cities through a fast-track policy solution like the proposed Municipal Nominee Program (MNP) is logical given the global competition for ideas, talent, and interdisciplinary knowledge. For example, Shanghai, a Chinese cosmopolitan city with about 24 million people including 9 million migrants and 150,000 foreign residents, is piloting a business start-up visa to attract foreign entrepreneurs. International pressure to dismantle barriers to cross-border talent flows is likely to intensify as rapidly developing countries in Asia and Africa try to redirect the flow of global migrants and knowledge networks away from preferred destination countries (ie., Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Australia).
  • A well-designed MNP that values the strategic importance of Canada’s largest metropolitan centres would be advantageous for the proposed Cascadia Innovation Corridor, a cross-border region of 10 million people linking Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland. In addition to being one of the world’s most “livable” and “smartest” cities, the City of Vancouver is uniquely positioned to nurture inclusive civic institutions and other “soft power” advantages which are beyond the current capabilities of a one-party country like China. 
  • Canada’s “soft power” resides with the diversity and resilience of its urban communities. For that reason, forward-looking and purpose-built planning processes will have to promote intelligent urban design, intercity collaboration (ie., transit-oriented development), and interdisciplinary knowledge networks at scale. If the proposed MNP represents a new milestone in the long-term trajectory of Canada’s immigration system, then it is also important to remain open-minded about the possible configurations of Immigration 2.0 (ie., enterprise-based migration) and Immigration 3.0 (ie., hybrid immigration-urban housing departments).  


Canada’s near-term approach to managed migration will drive its global economic competitiveness and shape its ability to maintain the quality of life that most citizens expect. Although Canada’s international reputation for welcoming and integrating newcomers is unparalleled, many core planning assumptions will need to be revisited in the context of the US-China strategic competition, rapid demographic shifts, resource-intensive infrastructure requirements (ie., affordable housing), and non-traditional security threats (ie. large-scale money laundering, cyber attacks on mission-critical infrastructure). As proposed, the Municipal Nominee Program (MNP) is a small step in the long transition towards a more agile and resilient migration management regime. Municipal leaders, economic development organizations, educational institutions, community groups, and individual residents will be integral to that process.  

Urban Dispatch summarizes and clarifies contemporary city-related trends, strategic management issues, and research questions. It is intended to provide VSIR clients and interested readers with relevant insights for use in making timely and informed decisions. Vancouver Strategic & Integrated Research is a catalyst for agile thinking and organizational learning. Further research and analysis of the issues discussed in the Urban Dispatch series is available upon request. Please forward any correspondence to  grant@vancouverstrategicresearch.ca.  


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