Calgary

Mayor hopes pot and immigration bring a boom to small Alberta town

Claresholm, Alta., is one of 11 communities selected to attract immigrants to northern and rural areas, just as three cannabis operations are set to start up.

Claresholm was selected for a federal immigration pilot program, just as three cannabis operations start up

Marijuana could cause a small boom in Claresholm, Alta., just in time for a new federal pilot program that will try to lure immigrants to the southern Alberta community. (Joe Mahoney/ The Canadian Press)

The mayor of Claresholm hopes that a booming cannabis industry and the town's selection for a federal immigration pilot project means a bright future.

The small town in southern Alberta is one of 11 communities selected to take part in the immigration program, which aims to attract newcomers to rural and northern communities with labour shortages caused by declining populations. 

Mayor Doug MacPherson says it's perfect timing for Claresholm, which is just about to experience a bit of a boom with three new cannabis operations.

"There's been enough here to keep most of our people employed, but we haven't seen much growth," he said. 

"A lot of people aren't willing to leave the cities and come to small centres. That's always been a problem for smaller centres."

First newcomers in 2020

Claresholm had a population of 3,424 in 2016, according to Statistics Canada, and, like most small communities, does not benefit from the population boost of immigration. 

About 78 per cent newcomers to Canada settle in big cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver under existing federal economic immigration programs. 

"So it's good for our local economy that there's jobs that are unfilled that will be filled by these people coming in," said MacPherson. 

The federal government will begin working with communities this summer to help them identify candidates for permanent residence as early as this fall.

The first newcomers under the pilot project are expected to arrive in 2020.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story identified the mayor of Claresholm as Rob Steel. In fact, the mayor of Claresholm is Doug MacPherson.
    Jun 18, 2019 11:26 AM MT

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