Immigration ‘critical’ to reversing population decline in province, government says
The Government of New Brunswick is calling for a significant increase in immigration to the province over the next five years to address the economic and social challenges posed by its ageing population.
The government’s new population growth strategy would see the number of economic immigrants settling in New Brunswick each year reach 7,500 by 2024.
This would raise New Brunswick’s immigration rate to almost one per cent of its total population and nearly double the current number of immigrants settling in the province.
“Population growth is crucial to the future success of our province,” New Brunswick’s Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour, Trevor Holder, said in a statement.
“The attraction and retention of new Canadians is critical to helping us increase our province’s population and meet the needs of our employers.”
The report says around 120,000 jobs will become available in New Brunswick over the next 10 years. Statistics compiled by the New Brunswick Multicultural Council (NBMC) show the province’s labour force losing 110,000 workers during this same period, primarily to retirement.
The report notes that New Brunswick’s current working-age population is too small to fill these opportunities and its declining birth rate means this situation will only worsen if immigration is not increased.
“International migration is a key strategy to lessen the impact of this decline,” the strategy reads.
A key concern outlined in the strategy is New Brunswick’s ability to support critical social services like health care. The report says the number of working-age individuals in New Brunswick for each senior citizen decreased from 4.6 to 3.1 between 2008 and 2018 and could reach 2.3 by 2027.
“This will have a significant impact on the province’s ability to fund economic and social services,” the report says. “In the short and long term, to meet the needs of supporting an ageing population with a shrinking tax base, New Brunswick needs to encourage movement into the province to improve our population outlook.”
The strategy says increasing immigration to the province will be achieved mainly through the New Brunswick Provincial Nominee Program (NBPNP) and the Atlantic Immigration Pilot.
The NBPNP allows New Brunswick to nominate a set number of eligible skilled workers, entrepreneurs and international graduates from New Brunswick’s post-secondary institutions for permanent residence each year.
The Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program is an employer-driven federal-provincial partnership launched last year to help employers in the Atlantic Canada region hire foreign workers to fill labour gaps.
The province’s allocation under these programs is 2,100 in 2019, the strategy says, up from 625 in 2014.
“We need to build on this momentum and focus on continued population growth and the increased migration of newcomers who meet the targeted economic and labour market needs of the province,” the strategy says.
Among other goals, the strategy also calls for achieving an immigrant retention rate of 85 per cent by 2024 and raising the number of French-speaking immigrants by two per cent annually over the next five years up to a total of 33 per cent of all immigration to the province, which recognizes both English and French as its official languages.
7,500 target ‘very achievable’
The government’s strategy echoes the findings of a report issued last November by the NBMC, which also called for increasing immigration to the province to one per cent of New Brunswick’s population.
Alex LeBlanc, executive director of the NBMC, told CIC News the province’s target is “very achievable” and the timeframe will allow the province to prepare support systems that will help communities to properly welcome and assist newcomers as they settle in New Brunswick.
“This strategy really symbolizes the transformation New Brunswick is going through,” LeBlanc said in a phone interview. “We are, as a province, fully behind the value of immigration, the contributions that newcomers make, and are committed to welcoming many more people to New Brunswick in the years ahead.”
Plan of Action
New Brunswick aims to achieve its population growth targets through a 60-point action plan based on four broad objectives:
Attract a skilled workforce that aligns with our labour market needs;
Recruit entrepreneurs that encourage sustainable economic growth;
Create an environment where newcomers and their families can settle and succeed; and
Engage communities to foster a more diverse and welcoming province.
On immigration, the objectives contain a number of key actions concerning francophones, international students, international entrepreneurs and skilled workers, businesses, and communities.
Here are some of the key immigration actions listed in the Population Growth Action Plan:
create a suite of tools and resources that will educate, inform and aid New Brunswick employers in their use of immigration to meet their workforce needs;
encourage international students to stay and settle in New Brunswick after graduation;
address foreign credential recognition issues for immigration candidates and their spouses;
promote provincial immigration programs in francophone markets;
support public engagement efforts that break stereotypes or misconceptions with a focus on the demographic realities in the province, the benefits of immigration and the importance of welcoming communities;
review the Entrepreneur Stream of the NBPNP to ensure it best allows new arrivals to start businesses and succeed;
assist immigrant settlement agencies in offering the settlement services required to meet the needs of newcomer spouses and children;
engage local governments and community stakeholders to support a process around exploratory visits for newcomers;
promote cultural competency training to New Brunswick employers.