Start with “Yes”
to Rebuild Healthcare in Ontario

Healthcare Relief Through
Internationally Trained Professionals

Yasir Naqvi, candidate for the Ontario Liberal Party leadership, announces a comprehensive plan to empower internationally trained medical professionals and restore the promise of Ontario.

Released - July  12, 2023 

Every day, Ontarians are struggling to access the nurses and doctors they need. Rolling emergency department closures across the province and unacceptably long wait times for essential services such as primary, emergency and mental healthcare are now the norm. 

As Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, Yasir Naqvi will not accept this downward spiral – Ontarians deserve better.

Driving improvements in our healthcare system starts with building up our skilled workforce.  In every sector, internationally trained professionals face unnecessary hurdles to practice, and this must be fixed. This problem is particularly acute in our struggling healthcare system, with more than 60 percent of internationally trained nurses and doctors currently residing in Ontario unable to work in their primary profession.  For most, the only thing holding them back is a confusing and burdensome system. 

Closures, long wait times and endless waitlists are an unnecessary and avoidable burden on Ontarians. Thousands of well-trained nurses and doctors are forced to sit on the sidelines, unable to help, while those on the job are overwhelmed and under supported.

“It is unacceptable to me that emergency rooms are closed and millions of Ontarians don’t have a family doctor,. This is the status quo under Doug Ford and it is simply not good enough.  As I have travelled across the province, I have met countless doctors and nurses who were educated and practised abroad. They see their colleagues in the healthcare field struggling, and they want to help.  But they can’t help, because they can’t make it through the burdensome and lengthy process to become licensed in Ontario. It’s time to start with yes and remove the unnecessary hurdles that are holding people back.”

Yasir Naqvi

We need more doctors and nurses — no matter where they were educated — and we need them now. A Yasir Naqvi-led Ontario Liberal Party will put all of Ontario’s talent to its best use by making three important changes:

  1. Start with “Yes” to streamline and simplify the licensing process through a defined pathway that includes establishing a reverse onus assumption of “yes”, for internationally trained doctors and nurses arriving in Ontario so most can begin practice within an average of one year.
  2. Modernising the Registered Health Professions Act and increasing funding for college and university spaces here in Ontario so more students are trained at home. Taken together, within four years, Ontario will achieve a ratio of doctors and nurses to population in line with the rest of the G7.
  3. Cutting red tape and ensuring strict compliance if regulated health colleges are not moving fast enough to meet these targets by bringing regulated health colleges under the purview of the Ontario Fairness Commissioner.


Policy Backgrounder

Healthcare Relief Through Internationally Trained Professionals

Across Ontario, ERs are closing due to staffing shortages, and it is taking longer to get served.1 More than 2 million Ontarians are without a family doctor or access to a primary healthcare team.2  And since the pandemic, physicians are working more hours and serving fewer people, because of burnout and a healthcare system that is struggling to keep up.3

But yet, at a time when Ontario is in desperate need of more health professionals, more than 60 percent of internationally trained nurses and doctors, who are here already, are not working in their primary profession.4 Regardless of whether they are a Canadian who studied abroad, or someone who immigrated here as a highly trained healthcare worker – the system is confusing, and places the onus on the applicant to prove they are worthy.

While many already possess skills and credentials that can easily be translated into the clinical environment in a matter of months,5 the Ontario government and regulatory colleges have been too slow and too timid in their response. This means health professionals who could be supporting Ontarians are left working less well paying jobs, and we as a province are left to cope with inadequate healthcare. For many, they are simply barred from using the skills they came to Canada to practice.

Doug Ford has failed us. Our healthcare system is in shambles because he has failed to act with the urgency we need. In spite of recent changes announced by the Ford government, Ontario is among the last provinces in the country to adopt basic best practices to help shorten the period of assessment. And it fails to address other key barriers like limited residency spaces and a lack of certainty about whether a professional will be accepted.

A Yasir Naqvi-led Ontario Liberal Party will challenge the status quo and bring real change that prioritizes Ontarians and puts the talents of our people to work to do what they know best. We will do this in three key ways:

1. Establish a reverse onus licensing process that includes enforceable and accelerated timelines - along a defined pathway - so that an internationally trained doctor, nurse or specialist health professional arriving in Ontario who possesses a relevant medical degree or certificate can generally be guaranteed to start practicing in their field within one year of arrival. This will include the all-in time associated with any residency or local bridge training that may be required, which publicly funded Ontario health institutions would be legally required to host. 

These timelines would be developed in consultation with stakeholders and experts, but would be set against aggressive objectives, which could, for example, include enabling non-specialist nurses and doctors to practice within 12 months, and up to 24 months for a specialist.

2. Change the Registered Health Professions Act and increase funding for Ontario post-secondary seats to set the goal that within four years Ontario will achieve a ratio of doctors and nurses to population that matches the G7 average

To meet this objective both the Government of Ontario and regulated health professions would be legally required to make corresponding changes and report on progress. This will require increased government funding, changes in process and a new culture among regulators, based on shared responsibility and accountability, to ensure that health professionals end up working in their area of training. 

A key part of this plan will include significantly expanding provincially funded post-secondary seats in different nursing and medical doctoral programs. This will help ensure that a growing province has a strong and diverse workforce of both Canadian and internationally trained graduates to meet the healthcare needs of all Ontarians, in all regions of our province. Additional incentives to ensure graduates enter practice in support of key underserved areas and groups will also be developed. 

Medical students, experts, and provincial nursing and medical associations will have a key role in helping shape this long-term plan in both an ambitious and practical way, looking at the end to end process from education to residency so that we can get more graduates practicing faster.

3. Bring regulated health colleges under the purview of the Ontario Fairness Commissioner, with the power to issue compliance orders if these professional regulatory bodies are not moving fast enough to meet these objectives.

And this is just the beginning. As a growing province, we will need more trades people, more innovators, and more care professionals to remain a competitive and dynamic place to live and work. 

To do that we must make it easier and faster to integrate the hundreds of thousands of talented workers who come here every year, and allow them to move around their chosen profession as they wish. A Yasir Naqvi-led Ontario Liberal government would ensure that all internationally trained professionals are able to practice their trade and use their skills to restore the promise of Ontario. 



1. Wallace, Kenyon (2023). "‘Staggering’ number of Ontario emergency department closures revealed by Star analysis". Toronto Star. March 3, 2023.

2. Alberga, Hannah (2023). “Millions of Ontarians are without family doctors as experts call for 'radical overhaul' of specialty”. CP24. April 5, 2023. 

3. Canadian Institutes for Health Information (2023). “Access to care remains challenging”. Results from the 2022 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey of Primary Care Physicians. 

4. Olaizola, Alexia and Sweetman, Arthur (2019). "Brain gain and waste in Canada: Physicians and nurses by place of birth and training”. Recent Trends in International Migration of Doctors, Nurses and Medical Students. Paris: OECD. Table 7.4.

5. Koca, Irem (2023). “A doctor back home, a Dollarama cashier in Canada: Will Ontario’s plan ease way for foreign-trained MDs?Toronto Star. February 27, 2023.