The province’s immigration department is currently working on program design and “continues to explore various options,” spokesperson Gurshan Dhillon told CIC News.
Consultations on the programs will begin in the fall of 2019 with stakeholders such as employers, settlement organizations, experts and immigrants who are already established in Alberta.
Kenney, who served as Canada’s immigration minister from 2008 to 2013, pledged to create the Rural Renewal Program and the Rural Entrepreneur Immigration Program if elected in order to “use the power” of immigration to revitalize smaller communities around the province.
A news release issued by Kenney’s United Conservative Party (UCP) in February said the proposed programs would help bring skilled foreign workers and entrepreneurs to rural Alberta communities such as Brooks and Wood Buffalo.
Kenney said both pathways could channel a combined 40,000 new permanent residents to these communities over the UCP’s first four years in office — 32,000 through the Rural Renewal Program and 8,000 through the Rural Entrepreneur Immigration Program.
The province of Manitoba’s success in attracting and retaining immigrants in rural communities through programs like the Morden Community Initiative is a model that the UCP said it wanted to draw on for the Rural Renewal Progam.
Around 20 per cent of all newcomers to Manitoba settle in rural communities around the province and communities like Morden have seen their populations grow significantly as a result.
On the campaign trail, Kenney said the Rural Renewal Progam would be linked to the federal Express Entry system, which is Canada’s principal source of skilled foreign labour.
Express Entry manages the pool of candidates for three of Canada’s main economic-class immigration programs — the Federal Skilled Worker Class, Federal Skilled Trades Class and Canadian Experience Class.
Candidates are ranked in the Express Entry pool based on a score awarded for factors such as age, education, skilled work experience and proficiency in English or French, and those with a provincial nomination receive an additional 600 points.
Alberta has an existing Express Entry-aligned provincial nominee stream, Alberta Express Entry, but the government did not say if it would be linked to the proposed Rural Renewal Program.
As to the Rural Entrepreneur Immigration Program, Kenney’s campaign-trail promise gave it a goal of welcoming 500 experienced immigrant entrepreneurs and their families each year.
Among the program’s potential criteria, prospective entrepreneurs would have to meet minimum investment and net worth thresholds and commit to actively managing and operating a business in which they have at least 51 per cent ownership.
Successful applicants would receive a two-year temporary work permit and could later be eligible for a provincial nomination for permanent residence if certain terms are met.
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