Nfld. & Labrador

Best time to move to N.L. is now, says labour minister at immigration strategy launch

A new strategy aims to boost immigration to Newfoundland and Labrador by 50 per cent, while attracting expatriates to move home.

Government plans to survey expatriates to entice them back to province

Gerry Byrne, minister of advanced education, skills and labour, unveiled the province's new plan to handle immigration on Friday. (Cal Tobin/CBC)

There is no better time to move to Newfoundland and Labrador than right now, and immigration numbers prove it, says Advanced Education, Skills and Labour Minister Gerry Byrne.

A new strategy was launched on Friday to boost immigration to the province by roughly 50 per cent in the next five years.

The target is 1,700 immigrants per year by 2022 — despite a downturn in the economy and an increase in taxes and fees provincewide.

The announcement was held at Verafin, a tech company in St. John's. The company is a leader in innovation and benefitting from skilled immigrant workers, Gerry Byrne said.

"Even in this economy — you could argue because of this economy — there are skillsets that are left unfulfilled and unanswered," Byrne said.

"The argument is actually made and effectively made, and effectively made, this is the best time to come to Newfoundland and Labrador."

If they want to come back, we'll provide them with an enticement. It's called living back home.- Gerry Byrne

While the province has upped its numbers in immigration, the retention rate has suffered.

A report by the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council released this year shows only 40 per cent of immigrants remained in Newfoundland and Labrador 10 years after moving here.

Five years after moving, the study found 58 per cent of immigrants stayed in the province.

What's in the plan?

The plan features 39 initiatives, 24 of which are scheduled to kick off in the next year.

It features such things as promoting discussions of multiculturalism in the school system, sending delegates to more conferences around the world, and working more closely with employers around the province to identify areas of need.

The focus will still be on filling jobs with people from this province, but where a local solution can not be found, a foreign skilled worker will be sought.

A group of 40 new Canadians sworn in at a citizenship ceremony in Wabush. Minister Gerry Byrne announced the province's new plan to bring more immigrants to Newfoundland and Labrador. (CBC)

In 2015, the province welcomed 1,122 new immigrants.

The strategy is funded to the tune of $8.9 million — $5.7 million from the provincial government, and the rest in federal funding.

The funds will be allocated from existing coffers, Byrne said, with no new money being budgeted.

Bringing people home

Included among the 39 initiatives is an effort to convince Newfoundlanders and Labradorians living elsewhere to return home.

The government will survey people who have left, asking their reasons for leaving and what it would take to bring them home.

Newfoundland and Labrador is hoping to attract 1,700 New Canadians per year by 2022. (CBC)

Byrne said the effort will not include any "glitz and glamour" in terms of advertising campaigns. Instead, they will work to ensure expatriates are aware of any opportunities at home.

Despite the increasing cost of living and flailing economy, Byrne does not believe it will be a hard sell.

"If they want to come back, we'll provide them with an enticement," he said. "It's called living back home."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ryan Cooke works for CBC out of its bureau in St. John's.

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