After extensive lobbying of the federal government, Nova Scotia will be able to nominate more immigrants for permanent residence in the province than it was expecting just two days ago.
At the Halifax Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, federal Immigration Minister John McCallum confirmed Nova Scotia would get an additional 300 nominations for the program — one of the streams through which immigrants land in the province.
"Nova Scotia, because of its aging population, is desperate for immigrants, so I get it," McCallum told CBC Radio's Mainstreet.
"So what we are hoping to do in the time between now and the fall is to hold these discussions, for me to be able to generate large numbers of immigrants overall and for me to be able to agree to Nova Scotia to receive significantly more.
"But we're not there yet, we're in the early stages."
In September 2015, the Canadian government approved Nova Scotia's request to increase the number of new immigrants for the nominee program from 1,050 to 1,350. But McCallum later told Nova Scotia Immigration Minister Lena Diab the number for 2016 would return to 1,050.
While Diab was in Ottawa Monday night, a return to the previous 1,350 was negotiated.
"We're certainly pleased that he [McCallum] recognized that the 300 bump that we got last year shouldn't have been a one-time bump," Premier Stephen McNeil said on Tuesday.
"There's a commitment by them to recognize the work that Nova Scotians have been doing in and around retention and allowing us to lead in Atlantic Canada to make sure that immigrants who arrive in Atlantic Canada stay here, not just here but in our sister provinces."
Just two years ago, the province was allowed 700 immigrants through the program. The Nova Scotia Office of Immigration says it's been lobbying the federal government to bump the number beyond 1,350 all year.
In an emailed statement to CBC News last week, Nova Scotia immigration spokeswoman Kelly Bennett said: "Ideally, we'd like to receive 5,000 individual nominations per year like Manitoba (a comparable jurisdiction)."
In October 2015, Diab announced she would ask Ottawa to permanently remove the cap on the nominee program. Her office says McNeil also raised the same question with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in January.
Program is 'timely and effective'
McNeil says the reason his government pursues changes to this program so aggressively is that it's more efficient than the federal immigration program. He says it's his "fundamental belief" the province needs people and needs them to stay.
"That's the reality of why businesses and provinces are looking for the provincial nominee program numbers is simply because you can move through the process in an efficient manner and you can process them in way that's timely and effective," he said.
"We've been one of the few provinces to maximize our numbers, continuing to push forward. We're we're saying is, lift those numbers, look at what we've been able to accomplish. We've got the attention of the federal minister."
McNeil says Nova Scotia's immigration retention rate is over 80 per cent.