N.L. immigration minister slams feds over lack of support

Gerry Byrne, Newfoundland and Labrador’s minister of immigration, population growth and skills, has demanded more help — and more money — from his federal counterpart to support immigration and settlement in a province where deaths outstrip births two to one.

N.L. reached permanent residency nomination limit in October, says Byrne

A person sits at a desk with a "Newfoundland and Labrador" sign on the front. The person, who wears a suit, is speaking.
Newfoundland and Labrador Immigration Minister Gerry Byrne says the federal government hasn't done enough to support immigration in the population-challenged province. (Darrell Roberts/CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador's minister of immigration, population growth and skills is demanding more help — and more money — from his federal counterpart to support immigration and settlement in a province where deaths outstrip births two to one.

While speaking with reporters on Thursday, Gerry Byrne touted Newfoundland and Labrador's population growth while slamming the federal government for a lack of support.

"There are many issues that need to be resolved with Ottawa," he said. "Many."

Byrne's central frustration is the province's federally granted immigration allocation, which he said was fulfilled as of Oct. 7. 

Now that those spots have been filled, the provincial government won't be able to nominate any more newcomers for permanent residency until Jan. 1. He said the province will continue to process applications and submit them to the federal government in the new year — but in the meantime, any newcomers who apply will have to wait.

"There is no room left this year," Byrne said emphatically. "None."

According to Byrne, the provincial government can nominate 1,140 people for permanent residency under the federal pathway, and 453 people under the Atlantic pathway. 

"In previous years, we were lucky if we could fill a third of those spots," he said.

Byrne said the provincial government is asking the federal government to expand Newfoundland and Labrador's nomination capacity for the rest of 2022, and double capacity in 2023.

Byrne said he already asked federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser for more capacity this year, but was turned down.

"Now we are seeing the results of this," he said.

CBC News has asked the federal Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship for comment.

Largest population growth in N.L.

According to Byrne, Newfoundland and Labrador's population grew by 6,200 people in the past 18 months — the largest increase since 1971 — largely through migration from other provinces and countries. He said 5,600 people have immigrated to Newfoundland and Labrador, while 3,700 people have moved to the province from other parts of Canada.

He said the growth doesn't include Ukrainians who have moved to the province since March.

Byrne also called for more funding for the Association for New Canadians, an agency that helps resettle immigrants and refugees in Newfoundland and Labrador.

According to the province, the federal government provides the association with less funding per refugee than agencies in the other nine provinces.

"The ANC is the lowest-funded support organization in the country," he said. "That has to change."

Byrne's criticisms come during a rocky week for the relationship between the provincial and federal Liberals. On Tuesday, Environment and Climate Change Minister Bernard Davis panned the federal government's decision to impose the carbon tax on Newfoundland and Labrador. 

Just a few hours after the news conference, Premier Andrew Furey reposted a photo of himself with federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc. 

'The perfect timing'

Tony Fang, an economics professor at Memorial University, said he's in "full agreement" with Byrne's demand for a higher immigration allocation — though he thinks the province should ask for triple, rather than double, the current capacity.

"The federal government certainly should collaborate with the provincial government to take advantage of this large interest in immigration," he said.

A person with black hair wearing a suit and tie smiles.
Tony Fang, the Stephen Jarislowsky Chair in Economic and Cultural Transformation in Memorial University's economics department, leads a team of immigration researchers. According to his research, he said, attitudes towards immigration in Newfoundland and Labrador are improving. (Submitted by Tony Fang)

Fang, who leads a research team exploring immigration in Newfoundland and Labrador, said attitudes toward immigrants have improved.

"This is the perfect timing to increase immigration targets," he said.

Jaclyn Sullivan, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council, said immigration is essential for the province's economic growth and prosperity, calling the current federal approach "not good enough."

'We would like to see much more effort on behalf of the federal government," she said.

Two photos, both of people from the chest up. The person on the left has long hair and glasses and a blue shirt. The person on the right is wearing a suit and tie.
Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council executive director Jaclyn Sullivan, left, and NDP MHA Jordan Brown agree with Byrne's call for a higher immigration allocation. (Darrell Roberts/CBC)

Sullivan said Newfoundland and Labrador doesn't have enough people to fill jobs.

"We're all seeing the impact of this," she said.

NDP MHA Jordan Brown said he supports Byrne's request for a higher nomination allocation and more funding for the Association for New Canadians, but he also wants to see more help from the provincial government — particularly regarding health care.

"We're lacking in support both federally and provincially," he said. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


Darrell Roberts is a reporter for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador in St. John's.