P.E.I. on target to grow population to 160K by 2022
'Statistics Canada has us right now hitting that target in late 2021,' says provincial director of immigration
The population of Prince Edward Island is growing at the fastest pace in the country, according to new figures from Statistics Canada released this week.
The latest population numbers from the federal agency revealed the Island had a growth rate of 2.2 per cent over the last two years.
That puts the province on track to reach targets under the population action plan released in 2017. The plan is intended to increase the Island's population to 160,000 by 2022.
Mary Hunter, director of immigration for the province, said that goal is within reach.
"Statistics Canada has us right now hitting that target in late 2021 with their measurement. Next year our expected growth would be about 1.5 per cent," she said.
As of July 1 the P.E.I. population was nearly 157,000.
Immigration driving factor
While some of the growth is driven by people from other parts of Canada moving to P.E.I., Hunter said immigration is the key driver with more than 2,000 immigrants coming to the Island for the fourth year in a row.
Hunter said last year, for the first time ever, deaths surpassed births in the province.
"This is something, if you look back a decade ago, was a concern with an aging population."
The PC government has been briefed on the population action plan and Hunter said government has been supportive of its goals.
Pressure for Island families
Hunter said the growth plan is taking a balanced approach.
"We know the population growth has put pressure on Island families and the infrastructure that does exist," she said.
Hunter noted government has announced investments in housing.
"The goal here is to increase the number of units, we are behind on that and I think it is a plan that needs to be put in place to keep up with the population group," she said.
Hunter said the Island is hoping to retain immigrants, something that has been a struggle in the past. She noted that retention under the Atlantic growth strategy's three-year immigration pilot project was 77 per cent.
"That would be a measurement we would always like to see improving,"said Hunter.
A year ago the P.E.I. government closed the entrepreneur stream of the PNP program. Hunter said the province is seeing a shift in immigration.
"We are seeing diversity that exists, we have … 72 countries where we recruited from last year," she said. "So I think you will see a shift not necessarily in the foreign national arriving, but the demographics of our province and the diversity that exists in our communities."
Immigration is meeting the needs of the provincial workforce. The workforce grew 3.1 per cent last year and Hunter said unemployment is just under nine per cent.
"If the domestic workforce isn't available then immigration needs to be there to complement those needs," she said.
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With files from CBC News: Compass