Nfld. & Labrador

'Population crisis' can be overturned with plans to recruit newcomers, Furey says

The Newfoundland and Labrador government revealed Wednesday how it will spend nearly $8 million to help meet an ambitious goal of attracting 5,100 immigrants to the province by 2026.

Premier Andrew Furey says immigration is a key part of the province's economic recovery

Premier Andrew Furey says a 'population crisis' is driving Newfoundland and Labrador's plans to recruit thousands of new immigrants. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

The Newfoundland and Labrador government revealed Wednesday how it will spend nearly $8 million to help meet an ambitious goal of attracting 5,100 immigrants annually by 2026.

The money will be spent on such things as supports to help people settle and become integrated with their new homes. As well, money will targeted for education, inclusion initiatives and promotional campaigns to attract residents to Newfoundland and Labrador.

"Today's investments send a strong signal that in the months to come, as we work towards social and economic recovery, immigration will be a key pillar in our success," Premier Andrew Furey said at a media conference at Confederation Building.

Furey was joined by representatives from Sharing Our Cultures, Tech NL and the Association for New Canadians. 

The provincial budget released May 31 highlighted immigration and population growth as critical to Newfoundland and Labrador's economic future, particularly as the average age of residents has been steadily increasing. 

Furey said a "population crisis" in Newfoundland and Labrador is driving the change, and noted N.L. is the only province in Canada where the population is declining.

Association for New Canadians project manager Amr Alagouza says the new government spending will help the organization enhance its programming and services. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

The government is hoping to attract immigrants from across Canada and around the world, and plans to invest $2 million in marketing campaigns aimed at newcomers.

Byrne said that the government will invest $2 million to digitize the immigration application process, which he said will shorten processing times.

While provincial immigration staff have previously been focused on processing applications, the province is investing $1 million to double staff numbers. Personnel will assist newcomers with the application process, and will also help employers who are trying to attract immigrant workers.

"We are going to take a far more activist role," said Gerry Byrne, the minister responsible for immigration and population growth.

Gerry Byrne, minister of immigration, population growth and skills, announced spending in areas like attraction, retention and employment. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

Byrne also announced that $2.4 million will be spent annually on integration and settlement services, including employment, language training and cultural supports. An additional $100,000 is being allocated to immigration training initiatives for government employees.

Education Minister Tom Osborne announced an investment of $357,000 to hire four more English as a second language instructors in the province's K-12 school system.

Emerging industries

Furey highlighted growing industries like the technology sector as central attractions for highly skilled newcomers.

Paul Preston, the CEO of Tech NL, said immigration is a key component of growth in his industry, which employs 6,500 people in the province.

Paul Preston, the CEO of Tech NL, said that immigration is key to the growth of the Newfoundland and Labrador technology sector. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

"Immigration not only brings those specialized skill sets we need, but importantly, it provides important links for our companies around the world," Preston said.

Preston also pointed to a link between entrepreneurship and immigration, including companies founded by immigrants at the Genesis Centre, a hub for startups in St. John's.

Amr Alagouza, the Association for New Canadians' project manager, said the investments will help the organization continue to provide resettlement and settlement services, including ESL training, child and youth programming, diversity programs, social enterprise programs and more.

"Our role goes beyond attracting newcomers," said Alagouza.

"We are determined to also keep on working towards integrating them and providing them with inclusion and retain them in the province."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Darrell Roberts is a writer living in St. John's.

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