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Formula For Successfully Attracting Immigrants To Smaller Provinces

Promoting immigration to smaller provinces, communities, cities and towns across Canada — a process called “regionalization” — has been the trend since the 1990s.

The major tool for promoting regionalization has been through the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs), which first inaugurated in Manitoba in 1999 and has since been accepted and used by every province and territory except for Nunavut and Quebec.

As a result of this push for regionalization, the three primary destinations for Canada’s new immigrants historically (Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec) have seen their share of all newcomers to Canada decreased from eighty-five (85) per cent to around Seventy (70) per cent.

In spite of this success, tackling the regionalization issues remains a work in progress and today communities across Canada are struggling with another major challenge — how to draw immigrants away from their province’s largest city.

Seven (7) provinces saw a minimum of eighty (80) per cent of new immigrants move to one city. The only exceptions are Alberta, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick,  each of which has at least two major cities.

Canada doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel to make progress in this area. Remember that while Canada worked really hard to populate its country upon its creation in 1867, it struggled to draw and retain new migrants until decades later.

Similarly, provinces such as Manitoba and Saskatchewan had very low immigrant intakes until they smartly used the PNP programs to turn their immigration fortunes around. Today, they benefit from some of Canada’s highest new immigrant intakes per capita. All this to say that smaller provinces can develop the capacity to become more successful at drawing newcomers.

The Canadian model shows there are four aspects to attracting immigrants, and this is the formula that Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and other successful smaller jurisdictions have employed:

  • Jobs
  • Community
  • Supports
  • Infrastructure

Smaller communities need to have economic opportunity and match prospective immigrants with appropriate jobs. While these jurisdictions may be able to attract more immigrants, the retention of them will be far more a problem if newcomers are working in jobs that do not match their skills.

It is also important to match the spouses of newcomers with appropriate job openings, otherwise, the family is more prone to leave even if one of the husband or wife is gainfully employed.

Smaller communities also need to ensure they offer newcomers a sense of community. This means having locals welcome newcomers from all corners of the world. It is also very helpful to have established ethnic groups (e.g., based on nationality or religion), which can serve as huge attraction to newcomers. After job opportunities, established family and ethnic connections are often the biggest reason why new immigrants will choose a particular destination in Canada.

Immigrants tend to need a wide variety of supports such as finding a doctor, language training, enrolling their children in schools, and opening a bank account. Canada is fortunate to have roughly 500 immigrant-serving organizations that provide these supports, and the presence of these organizations in smaller jurisdictions provides them with many advantages in attracting and retaining immigrants.

Finally, smaller communities must be physically equipped to embrace newcomers. This entails having the needed infrastructures such as affordable housing, public transportation, recreational facilities, and multilingual libraries with content. The presence of public transportation is very crucial since newcomers understandably may not be able to afford a car immediately and need to be able to get around to work and pursue their other businesses.

More can be done to encourage regionalization to smaller jurisdictions. For instance, some provinces may wish to establish regionalization quotas under their PNPs programs, whereby they assign a specific number of newcomers they will pick each year to live in smaller jurisdiction.

The federal government of Canada can help by promoting smaller communities to prospective immigrants. Newcomers tend to have a better awareness of Canada’s largest cities but may not know of the opportunities and benefits that are provided by smaller communities.

The Canadian experience dating back to Confederation demonstrates to us that regionalization to smaller provinces, towns, and cities is in fact possible. Harnessing our formula for success — jobs, supports, communities, infrastructure — will enable these jurisdictions to reap immigration’s many benefits and rewards.

Article by: By Kareem El-Assal

Source: CIC News