A population expert says New Brunswick should strive to do better when it comes to retaining immigrants because they are the province’s only hope for growth.
“For us, we have fairly high rates of outmigration and fairly low rates of fertility,” says Michael Haan, who is leaving his job as associate professor at UNB to take a post in Ontario.
Since New Brunswick introduced its population growth secretariat in 2007, Haan says the province has improved its track record when it comes to recruiting newcomers.
“Any of the last two or three years, we were actually recruiting more immigrants than we did throughout the entire 1980s.” he said.
Haan says the overall immigrant retention rate has climbed from 50 per cent in 2005 to 67 per cent a decade later. He credits developing infrastructure such as settlement services, multicultural centres, as well as language and employment programs.
Mike Timani, the president of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council, says he’d like to see that success rate climb to 85 per cent but is concerned about the increaisngly restrictive policies implemented by the federal government, especially when it comes to temporary foreign workers.
“There’s a perception out there that immigrants do take business away from Canadians and that is not true. Actually, there are a lot of immigrants that support the economy.”
Timani says immigrants are better served when they are properly educated about their destination and when they get help on the ground.
Jerry Yu, the president of the Saint John Chinese Cultural Association, says that support should also include better advice and guidance for entrepreneurs.
Yu says about half the Chinese immigrants that he meets in New Brunswick tend to leave for larger centres, including Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. This is partly because they come up with unviable business plans conceived after short visits to New Brunswick.
Haan says the provincial government is keen to promote successful immigration to counter the negative trends in New Brunswick’s population.
Meanwhile, an internal study presented to the Department of Post Secondary Education, Training and Labour, suggests that 115,000 New Brunswickers will be leaving their jobs over the next decade, mainly due to retirement.