Nova Scotia has seen a significant increase in immigration in recent years, and Premier Stephen McNeil says the province has a brighter future because of it.
The province welcomed more than 4,500 new immigrants in the first three quarters of 2016, already more than both the previous two full years.
Although these numbers were boosted by the intake of Syrian refugees, McNeil also points to numbers doubling in both the Nova Scotia Provincial Nominee Program and through the federal-level immigration programs.
When the intake of Syrians was at its strongest, in the first quarter of 2016, the province saw more than 1,800 new immigrants arrive, compared to 632 and 601 in the first quarters of 2014 and 2015 respectively.
Source: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
The province is set to see more immigrants arrive in 2017 with the start of the Atlantic Immigration Pilot, covering Nova Scotia, as well as Newfoundland & Labrador, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
The pilot, which will open in March 2017, will include programs for high-skilled and intermediate-skilled workers, plus international graduates.
Up to 2,000 new immigrants will be accepted across the four Atlantic provinces under the program.
The pilot is employer-driven, meaning candidates will require a job offer from a designated business in one of the Atlantic provinces. However, that employer will not require a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), which should significantly streamline the application process.
A key requirement of the pilot is the completion of a needs assessment and settlement plan before immigration, informing the candidate and the candidate’s family about the community they are moving to, and where they can get help once they have arrived.
Under the international graduate program, candidates must have graduated from a publicly-funded university in one of the four provinces, as well as have a job offer.
One of the chief challenges in Atlantic Canada is not attracting new immigrants, but making sure they stay.
In the five years from their date of arrival, statistics show more than half of new immigrants leave and it is retention that poses the greatest challenge for the region.
The Carrot Approach
Retention of immigrants in the more rural provinces is not a new problem for Canada, so if the current lawmakers are going to solve it, they need to think innovatively.
There needs to be considerable joined-up thinking across all levels of government to make it happen.
Provincial policy makers need to create the right conditions and consider a variety of measures for immigrants to remain there.
Some possible policies include:
- Short term provincial tax credits for new residents.
- Offer residential land purchases in outlying areas at below market prices.
- Conditional property tax exemptions.
Given the need to rely on immigration as a tool to meet growing demographic challenges, policy makers in Atlantic Canada and elsewhere must consider the carrot approach.
The immigration tools are in place. They just need to be complemented with input from a much wider range of stakeholders to create the right conditions for immigrants to remain by choice.
This strategy will go a long way to helping ensure the success of Canada’s overall immigration policy objectives.
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