Atlantic Canadian business leaders are encouraged by Ottawa’s plan to boost immigration to more than 400,000 per year over the next three years.
Canada’s immigration minister, Mr. Marco Mendicino, and members of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC) took part in a virtual discussion on the role of immigration in enhancing economic recovery in Atlantic Canada and the challenges facing the region due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Atlantic Canadians have shown themselves be leaders in attracting and retaining highly-skilled foreign workers, that are helping their businesses to grow so they can establish more jobs right here at home,” said immigration minister.
“Innovative programs like the Atlantic Immigration Pilot (AIP) are helping to make sure that the economic benefits of immigration are felt across the country. We will continue to ensure that Atlantic Provinces have the required skills to recover and keep growing,” he said.
One of the top business leaders and employers in Atlantic Canada, J.D. Irving, has reportedly gone ahead as to hire an immigration director and launch a centre of excellence in immigration in recognition of the labor shortage in Atlantic Canada.
Canada’s decision to boost immigration levels – announced earlier this year – was music to the ears of APEC member.
Canada is now planning to allow 401,000 newcomers to Canada in 2021. The target for 2022 has been increased up to 411,000 and another 421,000 newcomers are to be allowed into the country the following year.
Before the announcements of increased immigration levels, Canada was welcoming new immigrants at the rate of one percent of the Canadian population and had immigration target levels of 351,000 for next year and 361,000 for 2022.
The immigration minister has explained the boost in immigration targets for the next three years as an attempt to compensate for the deficit of immigrants due to coronavirus travel restrictions in 2020.
“Immigration is not only key to getting us through the global pandemic, but also to our short-term economic recovery and long-term economic growth,” he said.
“Canadians have seen how newcomers are playing a crucial role in our hospitals and care homes and helping us to keep food on the table. As we look to economic recovery, new immigrants create jobs not just by giving our businesses the needed skills they need to thrive, but also by establishing businesses themselves. Our plan will help to address some of our most acute labor shortages and to increase our population to keep Canada competitive on the world stage.”
During the virtual roundtable, the immigration minister highlighted that pilot programs like the Atlantic Immigration Pilot program help Canadian businesses get the skilled workers they need to grow. He also reiterated the federal government’s commitment to make it a permanent program when the program concludes at the end of 2021.
The Mendicino also touched on the importance of attracting foreign students, which contribute roughly $22 billion yearly to the Canadian economy, to the Atlantic provinces.
Since its establishment in 2017, participating employers in the pilot program have made over 7,500 job offers in key sectors, including health care and manufacturing. This has resulted in over 6,900 approved new permanent residents destined for or already in the Atlantic region.
In Halifax, the capital city of Nova Scotia province, economic development proponents are keen to draw more new immigrants.
“Halifax needs to continue to attract and retain new immigrants as well as young talent to grow its population, economy, counteract an aging population, and fill labor shortages,” said Alison Gillan, Halifax Partnership’s vice-president of marketing last month.
Under its five-year Economic Growth Plan, the economic development department has set its own ambitious population growth plans for the coming decade. Halifax Partnership wants the city’s population to grow by twenty-five (25) percent, to 550,000 from 440,000, by 2031.