Nova Scotia

Federal immigration delays stall Nova Scotia population goals

Nova Scotia is one of Canada's oldest provinces — in more ways than one. With a slow growth rate and an aging population, the province that was once a gateway for countless new Canadians is now starved for immigration.

Halifax business owner put in limbo by permanent residency application delay

Business owner Racquel Talon hopes to become a permanent resident and bring her children to Nova Scotia. (CBC)

It's another Sunday at the Halifax Central Library. It's closing time and Racquel Talon has another long night's work ahead, mop in hand, cleaning.

This is day seven of her work week — Talon doesn't get a day off. She owns her own cleaning company. She pays taxes and has for more than eight years.

Talon is waiting for an elusive designation of permanent residency that would allow her to stay in Nova Scotia for good. She wants to bring her kids here from the Philippines. One is a trained nurse.

"Especially my nurse, she has a lot of opportunity here. Everybody says so," Talon said.

"That's why she does her English proficiency. 'So I get a good job there, Mama.' But now she's feeling frustrated." 

Nova Scotia needs immigration, report says

But Talon's application for residency is stalled in Canada's bureaucracy — which is a bit hard to believe in a province where its economic survival depends on more immigrants like her.

Racquel Talon runs a cleaning company that services the new Halifax Central Library. (CBC News)

In the past 25 years, Canada's population has grown by just more than 25 per cent. In that same time, Nova Scotia's population is up by a mere three per cent.

That tiny growth — combined with an aging population — has become a recipe for economic disaster for this province, says Ray Ivany, the president of Acadia University in Wolfville.

Ivany recently led a study looking how to fix Nova Scotia's ailing economy, which said increasing immigration to Nova Scotia is crucial.

"I mean, we entitled it Now or Never: An Urgent Call for Action for Nova Scotians because we feel that we are at a point — an inflection point if you will — that, if the current trend line continues unabated, then you really are going to see a prolonged downward spiral," Ivany said.  

More newcomers requires federal approval

But the federal government controls immigration and puts a cap on how many immigrants can go to which province and when.

To be allowed to bring in more immigrants, any province — including Nova Scotia — has go cap in hand to Ottawa and beg.

Last month, the Nova Scotia government said it would create two immigrant streams to attract newcomers — one as entrepreneurs and one for international university students to stay and work in the province.

Ottawa also agreed to give Nova Scotia another 300 immigrants to fast track under the federal government's express entry streams.

While this is some movement, Nova Scotia will need three times the numbers of immigrants it gets now just to survive, Ivany said.

So for now, Racquel Talon must wait.


Tom Murphy is co-host of CBC Nova Scotia's supper hour news program and correspondent for The National. He also hosts Land and Sea and is brother to Bob.


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