TORONTO - Ontario should have greater control over which immigrants come to the province and the programs that help them settle in, Premier Dalton McGuinty says.
"We want the federal government to devolve to Ontario the authority to administer, plan and design our own integration and settlement programs for newcomers," McGuinty said.
"We also want more say in the selection of immigrants coming to Ontario so we can make choices that support our economic growth," he said Wednesday.
At present, for example, Ontario gets 16% of economic-class immigrants while the national average is 25%."
Manitoba, B.C. and Quebec have been given more autonomy over immigration matters than Ontario, he said.
Employers complain to the government that they cannot find workers with necessary skills and the province needs to be able to attract immigrants with economically important skills to boost its overall bottom line, he said.
But McGuinty said the province will still welcome new immigrants who arrive through other routes such as family reunification.
"Most of us here come from other parts of the world at some point in time and I bet you that most of our parents, or grandparents or great-grandparents didn't have extraordinary skill sets," he said.
"We started at the bottom. That's certainly where my family came into this. So we never want to shut those people out but what we do want is a better balance."
He intends to continue raising issues of concern to the province, like immigration and health care, throughout the federal campaign, McGuinty said.
Tory MPP Jim Wilson said the premier is deflecting criticism from his own domestic policies that have led to an unemployment rate that's been higher than the national average for 51 months.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath also accused McGuinty of trying to change the channel, insisting he should focus on finding appropriate jobs for immigrants who have already arrived.
"We still see many, many people who have skills who are driving cabs, who have skills who are delivering pizzas," Horwath said.