Atlantic growth strategy highlights digital health, immigration and trade

Atlantic premiers and federal ministers made a series of announcements about immigration, trade and health care at a meeting in Summerside, P.E.I., on Tuesday.

$70M will be allotted to digital health care access

P.E.I. MP Lawrence MacAulay, second from left, and Premier Wade MacLauchlan, fifth from left, pose with fellow premiers and MPs on Tuesday. (Kerry Campbell/CBC)

Atlantic premiers and federal ministers made a series of announcements about immigration, trade and health care at a meeting in Summerside, P.E.I., on Tuesday.

Federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay and P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan co-hosted the Atlantic Growth Strategy Leadership Committee meeting. 

The pair were joined by New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant, Newfoundland Premier Dwight Ball and Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil, as well as a number of federal cabinet ministers.

Trade mission to China

MacLauchlan said an Atlantic Canada delegation will visit China in November on a trade mission to promote food and tourism. 

"In the case of Prince Edward Island, we have been growing quite dramatically in fact, our trade in terms of sales to China and we've also been growing our tourism from [there] and we're looking to grow both of those," he said.

Trade relations with the U.S. were discussed, but MacAulay said diversifying trade at this time is important.

"We have great products and we need to make sure the rest of the world knows what we have," he said.

'Future looks bright'

Immigration was top of mind, as the ministers launched a pilot project in 2016 to promote newcomers to the region.

P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLachlan is hosting Atlantic premiers as well as some federal MPs in Summerside on Tuesday. (Kerry Campbell/CBC)

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains said 16,000 jobs were created since the strategy was implemented.

"Our common goal was to build a more innovative, diverse and globally competitive economy," he said.

Bains said that a record 9,000 newcomers have immigrated to Atlantic Canada.

Indigenous tourism was also mentioned as something the region was looking into launching.

"We recognize that we can and must do more but the future looks bright," he said.

Digital Health 

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor made an announcement about health care in the region.

She said that three out of the four provinces signed a bilateral agreement to provide federal funding for mental health and addiction.

Petitpas Taylor said discussions with Nova Scotia were still in the works.

Atlantic premiers and federal ministers made a series of announcements about immigration, trade and health care at the meeting. (Kerry Campbell/CBC)

Infoway, a not-for-profit that promotes access to digital health care, is investing $70 million dollars to Access Atlantic.

The investment will create a digital health system across the province and patients will now be able to access prescriptions and health care records online.

Skilled workers

Minister of Immigration Ahmed Hussen outlined the successes of both the immigration pilot project and the Study and Stay program.

"We've had over 900 permanent residence applications and over half of them already, have been approved to Atlantic Canada," he said.

The federal government will also increase the size of the pilot program by 500 spaces, so businesses can bring an additional 500 skilled workers on a first come, first served basis.

Hussen said this is the first pilot program that is employer-led and encourages families to come so they will stay here.

"This program is essential to our country's future," he said.

The goal reiterated by those at the meeting was that investing in international talent is important in order to attract and keep skilled workers.

When asked why it was difficult to retain immigrants to the region, Hussen said funding has increased every year to enable newcomers to settle here.

He said uptake has dramatically increased because more people are finding out about the advantages of the program.

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