Atlantic provinces make plea for more immigrants

The Premiers of Canada’s three Maritime provinces have revealed that they desperately need more immigrants to offset population declines.

An op-ed piece written by former New Brunswick Premier, Frank McKenna, which stated that boosting Atlantic Canada’s population through immigration is necessary to combat aging and declining populations, has been backed up by the current Premier New Brunswick, along with those from Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.

The Atlantic provinces currently only attract roughly 2.5 per cent of Canada’s total immigrant intake, and all three provincial leaders agree that more needs to be done at a federal level to turn migrant eyes towards Eastern Canada.

“Immigrants go where immigrants are. They are all going to Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. We have to break that mold somehow and it’s going to take a stiff dose of medicine to do that,” explained McKenna.

He proposed that the federal government should create a special programme for Atlantic Canada that would require immigrants to live three to five years in the region before they are granted citizenship. While he acknowledged that forcing a Canadian citizen to live in a particular province would violate their mobility rights under the Constitution, he added that Constitutional scholars believe it would be a reasonable requirement for people seeking citizenship.

The current New Brunswick Premier, Brian Gallant, revealed yesterday that he has already spoken to the federal government about the need for immigration and will push the issue again when the federal cabinet meets in the province next week.

“Welcoming new Canadians to Atlantic Canada and to New Brunswick specifically is going to be a big part of ensuring we grow the economy,” he said. “Not only that, they add a lot to our culture, they add a lot to our diversity, and those are strengths that I think help any jurisdiction.”

The Nova Scotia Premier, Stephen McNeill, and PEI leader, Wade MacLauchlan, both echoed Gallant’s thoughts.”It won’t happen overnight but it will require a thoughtful plan about making sure we have that social fabric in place as well as a commitment by the national government to recognize that they have a role to play in ensuring that giving provinces some control over the number of people who come in to our respective provinces,” he said.

Nova Scotia is currently the most popular Maritime destination for newcomers, and has consistently called for a higher quota of immigrants to be allowed through its Provincial Nominee Programme.

“The imperative to have an immigration profile that is similar to the rest of the country in all aspects is mission critical,” added MacLauchlan.