A recent report from Statistics Canada, the federal agency assigned to produce statistics to better understand Canada, had one clear message — the future of Canada’s population and economic growth is shifting west, and immigration will heavily influence the makeup of the country over the coming decades.
For people thinking of immigrating to Canada, this presents a fresh perspective on which region of the country they might think of moving to. While central Canada, especially the Greater Toronto Area and Montreal, traditionally attracted a huge number of newcomers, Statistics Canada is predicting, under each variable of its projections, that Alberta, British Columbia and the Prairies will increase their relative intake of Canadian immigrants over the coming decades.
Why are people moving west?
The main driver of increasing migration towards Western Canada is the booming economy, led by a strong oil and natural gas sector, as well as mining and construction. Thousands of international workers have answered the call for specialists in these industries, and their arrival has created a spin-off effect across the economy. This generates an additional need for workers in fields such as healthcare, education and food services. With new projects being instigated all the time, labour shortages are expected across Western Canada for the upcoming decades.
“New immigrants to Western Canada, both today and in the future, would not be settling in the ‘wild west’ of days gone by,” says Attorney David Cohen. “Most of them would have the opportunity to move to some of North America’s most cosmopolitan and lively cities such as Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg. Even medium-sized towns and cities such as Saskatoon and Fort McMurray are growing every day, attracting newcomers and increasing their stature within the landscape of Canada.”
Immigration to Alberta
Approximately 80 per cent of net new jobs in Canada in 2013 were in Alberta, with about half of those created in and around Edmonton, Alberta’s capital city. This means that 40 per cent of all net new jobs in Canada were created in just one city. With economic growth projected to persist, Alberta will most likely overtake British Columbia as the third most populace province by 2038, reaching between 5.6 million and 6.8 million. Its current population is just over 4 million. Alberta exhibits the highest average annual growth rates in Canada in almost all projection scenarios, with young workers attracted to the province by a strong economy.
Immigration policies affecting Alberta have been in the news in recent weeks, with new Premier Jim Prentice stating that he would like to see a more open system in order to take full advantage of the economic potential of the province. The federal government has let it be known that Alberta should look to permanent residence immigration programs, rather than the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, to fill labour shortages and help grow the economy.
The Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP) is the government of Alberta’s means of nominating individuals for Canadian permanent residence. It is separated into three streams, and you can read more here. Alberta’s strong economy also attracts many immigrants to immigrate to Canada through one of the federal economic programs: the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, and the Canadian Experience Class.
Immigration to British Columbia (B.C.)
The Statistics Canada report states that the main factor of population growth in British Columbia is, and will continue to be, immigration. Indeed, this process is already in full swing. Statistics Canada’s latest population data points to stronger-than-anticipated population growth over the past year, and the latest numbers point towards increasing international, as well as interprovincial, migration. Net international immigration jumped 16 per cent from a year ago to a total of 35,640, which represents a 5 per cent increase in the number of landed immigrants to the province. The majority of these newcomers arrive from Asia, and this trend is expected to continue in the coming years and decades.
The British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program (BC PNP) allows the government of British Columbia to select immigrants with certain skills and work experience for immigration to B.C. The skills streams of the BC PNP, which make up the majority of spaces, require an offer of full-time employment from a Canadian employer in British Columbia. B.C. is also a popular destination for immigrants who move to Canada under one of the federal immigration programs, as well as businesspeople and investors.
Immigration to Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan’s jobless rate, standing at just 3.5 per cent, is the lowest in Canada. Provincial capital city Regina has a jobless rate of just 2.8 per cent. The province is booming. According to figures released this month by Statistics Canada, employment in Saskatchewan was up 19,000 in September from the same period last year. With projections that Saskatchewan’s current population of 1.1 million could increase to as much as 1.5 million by 2038, the Statistics Canada report states that immigration will be the main driver of population growth in the province.
Saskatchewan is rich in natural resources, including oil, natural gas, potash, timber and uranium. It is also known as the “Bread Basket of Canada” due to its strong agricultural sector.
The Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP) allows the government of Saskatchewan to nominate a certain number of individuals for Canadian permanent residence. Prospective immigrants with the skills and experience targeted by the province may receive a Saskatchewan Provincial Nomination Certificate, which will allow that foreign national to apply for Canadian Permanent Residence with processing times that are faster than other Canadian immigration classes. The Saskatchewan Experience Category is for workers who already have work experience in the province. This SINP targets certain workers, such as long-haul truck drivers, considered to be in demand by employers in the province. There are additional sub-categories for students and individuals with experience in the hospitality sector. Immigrants may also be able to move to Saskatchewan if they are eligible to apply for one of the federal immigration programs.
Immigration to Manitoba
The province of Manitoba, situated in the heart of the Canadian prairies, is expected to increase its population significantly over the coming years and decades. According to the Statistics Canada report, this increase will be largely due to immigration, with some of the highest per capita immigration rates in the whole of Canada. With fertile plains in the southern and western regions of Manitoba, agriculture provides a considerable proportion of the provincial economy. Other major industries include transportation, manufacturing, mining, forestry, energy, and tourism. Manitoba’s unemployment rate stands at 5.4 per cent.
Manitoba actively searches for prospective immigrants through the provincial government’s Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (MPNP). One particular initiative under the MPNP is the Morden Community Driven Immigration Initiative. This rural town, situated 112 km southwest of Winnipeg, is actively looking for new immigrants in certain occupations, including cabinetmakers, welders, automotive mechanics, manufacturing, factory sewing machine operators, and daycare workers. Manitoba is also likely to continue to be a popular destination for individuals immigrating to Canada through the federal immigration programs.
Reaction and forecast
“Over the years, I have noticed a gradual increase in the number of newcomers to Canada who are heading west. These are often people without strong family ties to cities such as Toronto and Montreal,” says Attorney David Cohen.
“Immigrants who arrive in cities and towns in Western Canada tend to integrate quickly and typically find quality, secure employment in their fields. Many provinces — Alberta, for example — have been lobbying the federal government for greater power to select the immigrants they desire. The recent Statistics Canada report suggests that more and more applicants will be hoping to head west, and that the provinces want those people.”
For individuals looking to immigrate to Western Canada under a Provincial Nominee Program, the first step is usually securing work in a province. To look for available jobs across Canada, please visit the CanadaVisa Job Search Tool.
To find out if you are eligible for any of over 60 Canadian immigration programs that lead to permanent residence in Canada, please fill out a free online assessment today.
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