Syrian refugees will help stimulate economy, says Halifax Chamber of Commerce
Refugees 'come into Nova Scotia, create wealth, create jobs, increase tax revenue,' says board chair
As Canada prepares to welcome 25,000 new refugees from Syria before the end of the year, the business community in Nova Scotia is eagerly awaiting their arrival.
Some believe an influx of new and ambitious refugees could help stimulate the economy.
In February 2014, Nova Scotia's Ivany Report recommended that the province receive 7,000 new immigrants annually.
With the co-operation of the federal government, Nova Scotia would receive its proportional share — 2.7 per cent — of all new international immigrants to Canada, the report recommends.
The current five-year average is 2,400 immigrants per year.
Rob Batherson, chair of the board of directors of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, says that 7,000 immigrants would help maintain or even increase the overall population.
"We've had stagnant population now for quite some time and we have an aging population as well. So gradually the working age population is shrinking ... We need new, younger people to come into the economy to contribute, to set up businesses, employ other Nova Scotians and expand our tax base rather than manage with a shrinking tax base."
Batherson said Syrians, like other immigrant groups that have come to the province in the past, are likely to be entrepreneurs and have a strong willingness to work.
"For example, many of today's most successful business leaders were refugees from Lebanon, from the civil war in the '60s and '70s," said Batherson. "[They] come into Nova Scotia, create wealth, create jobs, increase tax revenue. So what I'm excited about with the potential with more Syrian refugees coming in is who in that class of refugees will be the next Nova Scotia success story for the next 30 years?"
Cape Breton ready for refugees
In Cape Breton, members of the Lifeline Syria Cape Breton committee met with Sydney-Victoria MP Mark Eyking and a representative from Glace Bay MP Rodger Cuzner's office on Thursday afternoon.
They met to push forward the group's message that it is prepared to welcome refugees.
Amanda McDougall, manager of Immigration Partnerships at Cape Breton University and a member of the group, participated in the discussion. She echoed Batherson's statements.
"We've had [an] influx of huge numbers of immigrants and refugees throughout our history. It's proven that when refugees come here, they come with a more entrepreneurial spirit. There's a different type of work ethic. Families come, businesses grow, opportunities grow."
McDougall hopes the government will consider settling refugees in smaller urban centres like Sydney, which stand to gain a lot from an influx of new immigrants. On the flip side, the community can do a lot for its new residents.
"You would really get more bang for your buck in terms of supports for refugees. When you're putting a small amount of money into refugee services here, it's really creating such a wonderful outpouring to the entire community and refugees are going to receive a lot more one-on-one support," McDougall said.
She admits areas outside metro Halifax lack certain immigration settlement services that refugees would be seeking.
McDougall said she has asked that the government assist in providing those services in the immediate future and that eventually they be more evenly spread out in the province.
Nova Scotia's Immigration Minister Lena Diab is expected to make an announcement on the province's role in the refugee crisis on Friday following a meeting with her federal counterpart, John McCallum.