Promoting rural P.E.I.

Souris Mayor David MacDonald would like to see more immigrants settle in his area, rather than in Charlottetown.

Plenty of opportunity, says provincial government

Souris Mayor David MacDonald is disappointed so few immigrants to P.E.I. are settling in his town. 2:08

Souris Mayor David MacDonald would like to see more immigrants settle in his area, instead of in Charlottetown.

Innovation and Advanced Learning Minister Allen Roach says there are plenty of opportunities for immigrants in rural P.E.I.

"I'm glad to see that they're contributing to Island life, but I'd like them to be contributing in our community rather than Charlottetown."

The population of Souris was 25 per cent higher half a century ago, said MacDonald, and continues to slip. One source of the trouble, he said, is the same reason locals are moving out and others aren't moving in: a lack of opportunity.

"It's very frustrating to try to grow your local community when you don't have the businesses to attract the people to come here to live," he said.

But the provincial government disputes that there is a lack of economic opportunity in P.E.I.'s rural communities. Innovation Minister Allen Roach told CBC News immigrants just need more exposure to the opportunities available.

"Perhaps there wasn't enough focus on rural P.E.I.," said Roach.

"We do see that there is tremendous opportunity in rural Prince Edward Island, and we're into our second year of encouraging that."

Last year, for the first time, the Innovation Department led six bus tours around P.E.I., taking dozens of immigrants to farms, wineries, processing plants, and introducing them to business owners and investors.

Roach said some talks and potential deals have resulted from those tours, but he could not be more specific.  He is hopeful the initiative will eventually result in a population boost in some rural communities.

MacDonald agrees there was a lot of positive talk around the tours, but he hasn't seen any actual results yet.

"They certainly liked it up here, and they met a lot of small business people up here," he said.

"But as of this moment, we've had no positive feedback from the bus tour. Nobody has come to stay."