Local task force addresses need to increase immigration to Sarnia-Lambton
SARNIA, February 8, 2022 – A newly formed working group consisting of leaders and decision-makers from across Sarnia-Lambton aims to address the need for immigration in the community.
The President’s Immigration Taskforce, introduced today via a virtual press conference hosted by Lambton College, was established to drive sustainable growth for the community and local economy through immigration.
Representatives of the Task Force say their goal is to grow, diversify and strengthen Sarnia-Lambton through a strategic approach to immigration that focuses on integrating international students and attracting immigrants who can help fill labour shortages.
Chaired by Judith Morris, Interim CEO of the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership, the group is made up of local leaders representing various community sectors including Rob Kardas, President & CEO, Lambton College, Alex Palimaka, Senior VP and General Counsel, Bluewater Power, Mike Bradley, Mayor, City of Sarnia, Leo Stathakis, President John’s Restaurant/Coffee Lodge Group, Matt Gordon, Director, Kel-Gor Limited, Stacey Forfar, General Manager of Community Services, City of Sarnia, Kelly Provost, Director of Economic Development, City of Sarnia, Stephane Thiffeault, General Manager, Corporate Services, Solicitor/Clerk, County of Lambton, Mehdi Sheikhzadeh, VP Research & Innovation, Lambton College, Christina Longo, Branch Manager, Scotiabank, Rob Thompson, VP Manufacturing East, NOVA Chemicals, Paula Reaume-Zimmer, Integrated Vice President, Mental Health & Addiction Services, Bluewater Health, CMHA Lambton Kent, Tanya Tamilio, Francophone Immigration Network of Central-Southwestern Ontario and Matthieu Brennan, Consultant, President, Brynaert Brennan and Associates.
Speaking on behalf of the Task Force, Morris said immigration benefits nearly every aspect of the community, and it has the potential to bolster a wide range of sectors and industries. However, due to certain challenges such as geographical location and small size, Sarnia-Lambton’s growth hasn’t kept pace with the rest of Ontario – a disparity that could be corrected with an average net growth of 1,463 individuals per year.
“This is a bustling community full of industry and opportunity and our economy is becoming more diverse with each passing month, but because of the challenges we face Sarnia-Lambton’s growth hasn’t kept pace with the rest of Ontario,” explained Morris.
Morris said the group is currently working with an Ottawa-based consulting firm to develop a strategic immigration framework for Sarnia-Lambton. The framework focuses on demographic challenges within the region and skilled worker shortages, in an effort to ensure the community is attracting newcomers who can be successful while contributing to the local economy.
Additionally, the Task Force is working on developing an immigration pilot project with the support of the federal government. The program, which has seen success in other rural communities in Atlantic Canada and Northern Ontario, is designed to spread the benefits of economic immigration to communities like Sarnia-Lambton by creating a path to permanent residency for skilled foreign workers.
Kardas reinforced the College’s commitment to doing its part to attract newcomers to the region, noting the recent increase in international students attending Lambton College and engaging in the community. As longtime leaders in international education, Kardas said the College is also noting a real increase in the number of international graduates who are seeking post-graduate work permits and permanent residency to stay in Sarnia-Lambton.
“International students and immigration make our College and our community stronger. That’s the long and short of it,” he said. “Immigration promotes diversity and inclusion, it brings new perspectives, ideas and innovation, and it enriches our culture. Immigration is also at the forefront of economic growth and sustainability, and it’s especially essential for addressing skills shortages in smaller and more rural areas like ours.”