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Alberta Seeks to Attract More Immigrants

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EDMONTON — To solve Alberta’s chronic labour shortage, 10 provincial ministries have come up with some unusual proposals, including enticing skilled workers to come to the province, even temporarily.

Other plans include fast-tracking skilled immigrants to the province and encouraging employers to hire from “non-traditional” sources such as aboriginals, older workers and the handicapped. “We’ve entered a tight labour supply throughout the province,” said Human Resources and Employment Minister Clint Dunford. Despite warnings of an economic slowdown in Canada, Alberta’s economy is expected to continue outstripping the other provinces.

Alberta’s overall unemployment rate is 4.5 per cent, but the rate for some professions, such as mechanics and trades supervisors, are below three per cent.

“We have been hearing from various industries that they are in some cases holding up projects because they can’t find the skilled people they need,” said Dunford.

Sensitive to criticism that Alberta has been “raiding” other provinces for skilled workers, the proposals unveiled Friday include a program to recruit workers to Alberta for a fixed period.

“I would like to be talking to ministers responsible for labour and for skill development in other provinces to see whether or not there would be some type of temporary transfers we could get involved in,” said Dunford. He said after a project was completed and the workers no longer needed, they would head back to their home province or somewhere else.

“It would be beneficial to everybody, including the industry, that we keep people in the industry and not just try to keep them in our province and face the risk of losing them from an industry when cycles do get slower.”