New growth strategy sets target of 7,500 newcomers a year
Government announces plan for attracting people to province and making them want to stay
A new population growth strategy was announced in Saint John on Tuesday by Trevor Holder, the minister of post-secondary education, labour and training.
Holder laid out the government's strategy and action plan to attract and retain people to the province with a focus on immigration.
The strategy, called "New Beginnings: A Population Growth Strategy for New Brunswick 2019-2024," lays out a goal of attracting 7,500 newcomers a year with a one-year retention rate of 85 percent by 2024.
It builds on population growth strategies that have been implemented in the province in the past.
"We have a great track record of attracting people," Holder said. "Because we have a great province. But we do need to do a better job at retaining those people here."
Sixty action items in the report detail how the province hopes to meet its population goals over the next five years.
They focus on recruiting skilled workers and entrepreneurs to the province and then keeping them here by creating engaging and welcoming communities.
Holder said about $2 million will go toward the new initiatives announced today.
Fred Bergman, a senior analyst with the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, said the government's goal is an ambitious one.
"I think it's a stretch target," he said. "It's definitely going to be challenging to get there. They certainly have a lot of actions that will move them in the right direction."
He said the Atlantic Immigration Pilot targets for 2021 should help New Brunswick's immigration numbers. The region has been seeing an increase in population, a trend that continues to grow this year.
According to Statistics Canada numbers released in June, New Brunswick's population grew by more than 4,000 people from April 2018 to April 2019. That growth was driven almost exclusively by immigration.
Promoting inclusive communities
Creating more welcoming communities makes up half the objectives of the population growth strategy.
And Bergman said this one had more of an emphasis on creating more welcoming communities than others in the past.
"There's probably a bigger push, I'm guessing, in this strategy than the past strategy to kind of promote that acceptance and integration and inclusiveness into the communities," he said.
Holder stressed at the announcement that some of the onus is on communities.
"I've been very clear that communities around this province have to have a growth strategy in place and have to demonstrate how we're going to attract new Canadians and make them feel welcome if we're going to invest in infrastructure and other funding in those communities going forward," he said.
Mohamed Bagha, the managing director of the Saint John Newcomers Centre, said New Brunswick is a great province for newcomers to build a life.
"We hear from newcomers, we ask why do you choose New Brunswick? Why do you choose Saint John?" he said. "It is the quality of life. It's the air we breathe. Things that we never think of."