Moncton to seek thousands more immigrants to sustain economic growth
5-year plan lays out ways to attract, retain more immigrants
Moncton's new immigration strategy emphasizes increasing the number of people making a home in the region in order to maintain economic growth.
The Greater Moncton Immigration Strategy 2020-2024 suggests the region will need 2,700 to 3,500 immigrants per year by 2024. It calls for a third to be francophone.
"Greater Moncton needs to be an economic engine for the province because otherwise we can't afford to pay for public services that people want," said David Campbell, a former chief economist for the provincial government and one of the consultants who prepared the strategy.
"So if your economy is not growing at least at a moderate rate it's very, very difficult to sustainably fund public services."
Campbell and Aldea Landry outlined the new immigration strategy at a Moncton council meeting Monday.
The report says there are 17,000 people over the age of 55 in the region's workforce expected to retire within 10 to 15 years. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate last year among those 25 and older was 4.6 per cent. A report to Moncton council says that means "there is not much slack in the region's labour market."
While labour market growth was previously driven by people moving from other parts of New Brunswick, that trend has lessened in recent years.
"So really if you want growth in your population it's going to have to come mostly from immigration," Campbell said.
We don't want to be a trampoline city. - Aldea Landry
But bringing people to the area is only one step. The strategy calls for measures to keep people in the area, such as holding neighbourhood gatherings to help meet and integrate newcomers.
"We don't want to be a trampoline city," Landry told councillors.
A goal is to increase the retention rate so that 75 per cent of newcomers stay five years after arriving. That represents a significant increase from the 49.3 per cent rate reported by Statistics Canada between 2010-15.
The strategy lays out seven objectives, which include specific actions for municipalities, the province and other groups to take over the coming years:
- Promote Greater Moncton internationally as a destination to study, advance careers, do business and live
- Strengthen alignment of immigrant attraction efforts to labour market demand and economic opportunities
- Expand and improve the pathways for immigrants
- Significantly broaden both public awareness and engagement
- Expand and enhance settlement services to meet the needs of immigrants and foster better workforce outcomes
- Invest in and strengthen the immigration support ecosystem
- Strengthen Greater Moncton's leadership and advocacy role
Campbell said achieving some of the goals will mean changing how some money is now spent at the municipal and provincial levels. The strategy did not include estimates for the cost of accomplishing the goals.
"Historically we spent a lot of money trying to attract industry to the province, and that's fine, but now we've got to start thinking about what kind of investments we need to make to ensure that we can attract and retain people," Campbell said.
He said even if it costs $5,000 to bring and keep a person who's employed, they could generate more than double that in tax revenue.
"That's a huge return on investment," Campbell said.
Between 2016 and 2018, the population in the Moncton region increased 1.4 per cent, in large part because of immigration.
Immigrants represented 67 per cent of the population growth in the region last year. That's up from 22 per cent in 2009.
The report says there are already more than 8,000 immigrants living in the region, with 5,000 active in the labour market. It states there are 1,500 to 2,000 international students attending public and private post-secondary institutions. Another 700 temporary foreign workers are also in the area.