Last Updated on March 29, 2021
New Brunswick’s hospitality and tourism sector is expected to gain some momentum with the return of the Atlantic Bubble in late April as Canada’s COVID-19 vaccination programs promise a return of higher immigration levels.
In its economic forecast for the maritime province, TD Economics noted the devastating impact of the loss of the Atlantic Bubble, which allowed free travel throughout New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador for residents of those provinces, once the second wave of the pandemic hit in the second half of last year.
“This will impact the hospitality industries as tourist visits drop from neighboring peers,” forecast the bank’s chief economist Beata Caranci, deputy chief economist Derek Burleton, and economists Rishi Sondhi and Omar Abdelrahman in their provincial economic forecast, It’s Always Darkest Before Dawn, late last year.
Since then, though, the premiers of the maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, have announced a return of the Atlantic Bubble, on a limited scale initially excluding Newfoundland and Labrador, on Apr. 19.
“For a long time we’ve been able to keep our borders tight and that’s proven successful and the previous Atlantic bubble was very successful so I’m eager to see that happen,” Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin reportedly told reporters last week.
In 2020, New Brunswick suffered much less than many other Canadian provinces, taking a hit to its economy of only three per cent of its real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as it managed to keep COVID-19 cases down.
“With the exception of some of its Atlantic Canada peers, it has maintained the lowest per capita caseload in all of North America,” states the TD Economics forecast. “After witnessing the smallest peak-trough job decline among the provinces (last) spring, New Brunswick has recorded a relatively swift hiring recovery.
“Success in containing the pandemic has also reflected in stronger household and retail spending.”
Housing Sales, Home Construction Strong
During the pandemic, New Brunswick continued to enjoy a strong housing market with double-digit growth expected for last year and a strong home construction sector. The province is, however, heavily reliant on oil exports and this has led to a downturn in its manufacturing and oil sector in the past year.
In its economic forecast, TD Economics is predicting growth of 3.5 per cent of the province’s real GDP this year and 2.2 per cent in 2022. That means the New Brunswick economy should more than completely recover this year from the economic downturn due to COVID-19 and then see growth from where it was in 2019 sometime next year.
“Executing on the commitments at the federal and provincial levels to ramp up the pace of international immigration will be important to counter New Brunswick’s aging demographics and support its economy,” states TD Economics.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement that all Canadians will be able to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of September is expected to help restore some sense of normalcy and boost immigration levels.
Last year, immigration slowed to a trickle across Canada as public health measures led to border closures for all but essential travel.
In New Brunswick, the number of new permanent residents to the province dropped to less than half, falling 51.8 per cent to 2,890 from 6,000 the previous year.
Business Immigration Programs Boom in New Brunswick
Despite that drop in overall immigration to New Brunswick, business immigration programs boomed in the maritime province last year, resulting in twice as many new permanent residents to the province under the Federal Self-Employed Class, and the Start-Up Visa program. The number of new permanent residents to New Brunswick under these programs jumped to 20 last year from 10 in 2019.
But Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada figures for last year show all other immigration programs in New Brunswick took a hit due to the travel restrictions imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Canada.
Overall, economic immigration to the province fell by 52.7 per cent, from 5,060 new permanent residents to the province under these programs in 2019 to only 2,395 last year.
The worker programs, including the Atlantic Immigration Pilot, Canadian Experience, Caregiver, Skilled Trade and Skilled Worker, resulted in 56.6 per cent fewer new permanent residents to New Brunswick last year, only 955, compared to 2,200 in 2019.
The Provincial Nominee Program was not hit as badly but still saw a drop off of 51.2 per cent over 2019 with only 1,390 new permanent residents to the province coming through the PNP in 2020 compared to 2,850 the previous year.
Family Sponsorship Immigration Numbers Drop More Than 40%
Family Sponsorship programs fared better. In 2020, they dropped by only 41.2 per cent in New Brunswick, leading to 255 new permanent residents to the province under these programs compared to 425 in 2019. Refugees and protected persons programs dropped a bit more, by 49 per cent, and saw 250 fewer new permanent residents arrive in New Brunswick in 2020 than the 510 that had made that province their home in 2019.
Ottawa remains firmly committed to boosting immigration again with much more ambitious targets for this year and the next two.
Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced late last year that Canada was going to greatly increase immigration levels to make up for the shortfall in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ottawa Still Bullish On Immigration
Under the new plan, Canada is planning to welcome more than 1.2 million newcomers between 2021 and 2023 with 401,000 new permanent residents to Canada in 2021, 411,000 in 2022 and 421,000 in 2023.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the previous plan set targets of 351,000 in 2021 and 361,000 in 2022.
“Immigration is essential to getting us through the pandemic, but also to our short-term economic recovery and our long-term economic growth,” said Mendicino. “Canadians have seen how newcomers are playing an outsized role in our hospitals and care homes and helping us to keep food on the table.
“As we look to recovery, newcomers create jobs not just by giving our businesses the skills they need to thrive, but also by starting businesses themselves,” he said. “Our plan will help to address some of our most acute labour shortages and to grow our population to keep Canada competitive on the world stage.