Though Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal continue to absorb the majority of newcomers to Canada, each of their respective national shares of immigrants have dropped as Canadian newcomers have begun to appreciate the advantages of living in smaller cities.
Recently released Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) statistics show that Canada’s small and mid-sized urban areas are enjoying an immigration boom.
In 2007, the number of immigrants who took up residence Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island was up by 73 per cent from the previous year. In Moncton, New Brunswick, that number was up by 31 per cent. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan saw a rise of 40 per cent, and the small community of Red Deer, Alberta received 93 per cent more newcomers in 2007 than the year before.
The change is largely due to shifting economic and employment prospects across the country and successful regional initiatives such as the Provincial Nomination Program (PNP) and increased recruitment and retention efforts from smaller cities.
Major urban cities are often cited as a preferred destination for newcomers because of their established ethnic communities and greater economic opportunities for individuals who do not have a high proficiency in English or French.
However, recent studies have shown that newcomers who settle in smaller cities often enjoy a more successful economic integration. Labour-force participation is highest in areas outside Canada’s threes largest metropolises, unemployment rates are lower, incomes are higher, and housing is less crowded. Moreover, many immigrants who have left big busy cities behind in their home countries are seeking out smaller quieter communities in Canada.
In their efforts to spread Canadian newcomers across the country, CIC has been encouraging smaller cities to step up their recruitment and retention efforts to educate immigrants about different possible destinations in Canada. It has provided a guide to assist with this: Attracting and Retaining Immigrants: A Tool Box of Ideas for Smaller Centres.
An influx of immigrants is very beneficial to small and mid-sized cities in terms of increasing the labour pool, raising the municipal tax base, and adding greater cultural diversification to the communities.