New Brunswick’s provincial government aims to increase immigration

Alexandra Miekus, Shelby Thevenot
Published: September 24, 2020

New Brunswick could benefit from an increase in the number of newcomers over the next three years as a result of policies proposed by the Progressive Conservative Party.

New Brunswickers re-elected the Progressive Conservative government on Monday, September 14.

During the election campaign, the incumbent premier, Blaine Higgs, pledged to continue his government's five-year action plan on population growth. The government had already announced its goal of attracting 7,500 immigrants per year by 2024, which is the maximum allowed by the federal government.

“It was fun to see, during the campaign, that both major parties were tripping over each other to promise strong immigration flows,” said New Brunswick economist Richard Saillant, referring to the Liberal Party’s ambition to welcome 10,000 new immigrants per year over the next decade.

The Progressive Conservative Party said its goal is to attract 10,000 people to the province per year by 2027.

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The province wants to increase the number of francophone immigrants through the Provincial Nominee Program to support the growth of francophone culture. The party's platform sets a goal that would allow francophone immigrants to make up 33% of the population by 2024.

This goal, which would reflect the proportion of francophones in New Brunswick's population, was supposed to be achieved this year, but has been postponed and is now set again.

Higgs says the key to increasing the population is attracting families to the province while also encouraging them to stay. In its platform, the party set a retention rate target of 75% for the next five years.

Another of the party's goals is to work with institutions of higher learning and professional associations to attract international students, professionals, skilled workers and keep young people in the province. The party promises to continue investing in experiential learning initiatives, such as FutureNB, which has already helped more than 1,000 students connect with 240 employers.

New Brunswick is facing labour shortages due to the lack of skilled workers. According to provincial government projections, some 120,000 jobs will be unfilled over the next ten years. The low birth rate, the growth of the elderly population, and the rate of youth migration have created an acute shortage of skilled workers in the province.

To increase its population, New Brunswick plans to continue to rely on immigrants, as newcomers have helped the province see the longest period of sustained growth since the 1990s. The migration of large numbers of people to the province will lead to population growth and help meet labour market needs.

During his campaign, Higgs said New Brunswick's population grew by more than 4,000 people last year and that this growth was almost exclusively due to immigration. Statistics Canada estimates the province's population at approximately 780,900.

The Premier had also stated in January that the province would open offices in India and Europe to promote immigration to New Brunswick. This initiative is aimed at attracting foreign workers and investors interested in New Brunswick.

Higgs stated that the government's business development agency, Opportunities New Brunswick, is committed to attracting companies in emerging sectors such as cybersecurity, digital health and energy innovation in the years ahead.

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