Premier Stephen McNeil announced the creation of an advisory council Tuesday to help increase immigration in Nova Scotia.

Prominent immigrants Colin Dodds and Wadih Fares are co-chairing the Premier’s Immigration Advisory Council.

Dodds, who immigrated to Canada from the U.K. 32 years ago will advise the premier on attracting and retaining international students. Dodds is the president and vice-chancellor at Saint Mary’s University, an institution where one in four students comes from outside of the country.

"Many of our students want to stay and we just have to find a way to make that happen,” said Dodds.

Fares, a successful developer originally from Lebanon, will work with government and businesses across Canada to support the province’s efforts to increase immigration.

Currently, there is a cap of 150 on Nova Scotia’s nominee program, which is a stream by which immigrants can apply for a permanent resident visa to Canada. Fares will try to convince Ottawa to increase that cap.

Tories say job creation would help attract immigrants

Tory leader Jamie Baillie thinks the announcement of a panel is a good first step to increasing the province’s population, but feels efforts need to be concentrated on growing the economy.

“A competent government would recognize that a competitive job market is key to attracting new people to our province,” said Baillie in a news release. “If we're going to finally get serious about growing our population, we need to get serious about creating jobs too. An immigration strategy will only be successful if we have the jobs to attract and retain new Nova Scotians.”

The province also announced some changes to services which help immigrants settle here. It is giving YMCAs outside Halifax $470,000 to offer child care and other services to help immigrants settle. Newcomers looking for jobs in Halifax will still rely on ISIS (Immigration Settlement and Integration Services) for training.

In total, the province gives $3.65 million to settlement service providers.

McNeil says the stakes are high.

“From an economic point of view, without us being able to bring more people into this province, all of the other challenges will be too daunting,” he said.

Nova Scotia receives a total of 2,500 immigrants a year but needs almost three times that many to grow the economy.