The P.E.I. government says four new advisory councils will be announced next week in an effort to help the province figure out how to attract more immigrants to rural areas. 

'Up to this point, there just hasn't been a great push to bring immigrants to rural P.E.I.' - Sonny Gallant, P.E.I. minister of workforce and advanced learning

Starting this fall, the government plans to change its immigration process, allowing preference for immigrants seeking to establish in rural areas.

But Workforce and Advanced Learning Minister Sonny Gallant said the specifics of those changes are "still in the development stage."

Identifying communities' needs

First, Gallant says the province wants to hear from the business and community leaders, who have been appointed by cabinet to the four regional councils. 

"They'll be out there seeing the needs in their communities," said Gallant. "They can tell us about the potential of a new business startup or someone buying a business in their community, which would create some new employment and bring people to rural P.E.I."

Citizenship ceremony

As part of its population growth strategy, the P.E.I. government has set a goal to attract more immigrants to rural areas. (CBC News )

Gallant said later this summer, after working with the councils, the province will issue a request for proposals for Island agents, who'll work overseas to promote P.E.I., including business and job opportunities in rural areas. 

"Up to this point, there just hasn't been a great push to bring immigrants to rural P.E.I.," said Gallant. "Most of them are going to Charlottetown."

Numbers don't lie 

According to the P.E.I. government's most recent population report, Queens County's population has jumped by more than 13,000 in the last decade, largely through immigration to the Charlottetown area.

At the same time, the populations of Kings County and Prince Country have both dropped by more than a thousand. 

Georgetown Mayor Lewis Lavandier says he's encouraged to see the province finally focusing on attracting immigrants to the areas that need people most. 

'I think we have to offer more'

But Lavandier said it will take more than a recruitment drive to get them there. 

"I think we have to offer more in the smaller communities, and we're going to have to get help to do that," said Lavandier.

"We're going to have to enhance employment and services. If we can make jobs available for these folks, it'll be more attractive. And we need to have multi-housing units set up to house families from certain countries." 

The P.E.I. government has set a target to grow its population by 10,000 people in the next five years.