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Immigration Federalism: A comparative Analysis of Policy in Canada (Saskatchewan) and in Australia (Western Australia)



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This study compares subnational immigration programmes for economic immigrants in Canada and Australia. Whereas for the first four or five decades in the post-WWII era Australian and Canadian national governments had total control over immigration policies and programs, during the most recent three to four decades the sub-national governments have become increasingly involved in the selection of some categories of immigrants destined for their respective territories. During the same time the national “Immigration Points System” has been converted into a policy instrument that helps subnational levels of government to select specific immigrants to live and work in their territories. The change has occurred because the national merit-based point system was not very useful in addressing the pressing needs for particular types of immigrants to Canadian and Australian territories. This has evolved into what is known as “immigration federalism,” which is a relatively new approach to formulating and implementing immigration policies through processes and agreements negotiated between the national and sub-national governments in these two countries. Using Hall’s “Paradigm Model”, this study investigates how in the past twenty-five years immigration federalism has altered immigration policy in Saskatchewan (SK) and Western Australia (WA). First, this research explores how policy instruments, policy goals and the political discourse of immigration federalism have changed in the last quarter century in Canada and Australia. Secondly, this research compares differences in the ways in which Canada and Australia have selected highly skilled individuals to immigrate to their countries, highlighting the differing roles of subnational governments in each. The study confirmed that in both Canada and Australia, the immigration programmes for economic immigrants are considerably different due to structural factors such as dependence and vulnerability, and institutional factors like constitutional mandate, nature of immigration agreements and integration. Finally, Hoppe’s three drivers—puzzling, powering and participation—are used to demonstrate that policy paradigms have changed immigration policy in the same way in both countries. This case constitutes a third order of change as the immigration point-system, multiculturalism policy, nature of agreements and the nature of residency all have evolved. Moreover, a second order of change occurred in response, with new roles for applicants, firms and credential agencies. This study is the first to compare policy paradigms across Canadian and Australian subnational jurisdictions, revealing how cities have become new immigration-policy innovators.



immigration federalism, provincial/state immigration role, national/sub-national power distribution, regional immigration agreements, policy puzzling and policy powering, provincial nominee programs, skilled workers, asymmetric vs symmetric immigration policy systems, immigrant selection, cities as immigration policy innovators.



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy


Public Policy


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