Immigration is key to this province’s continued economic strength. That’s according to Peter Woodward of the Woodward Group of Cos.
Woodward discussed immigration during a panel discussion titled “Is Newfoundland & Labrador Open for Business?” at the NL Employers’ Council annual conference Wednesday.
“I would love to think that all Newfoundlanders that have left are going to come home. But I can tell that’s not going to happen,” Woodward said.
In order to keep the economy afloat, Woodward spoke insistently about increasing the supply of labour and was equally convinced immigration is the only way to get the number of people needed.
“I really think we have to focus on an extraordinary immigration program to be able to support what’s happening in this province,” he said.
While booms are happening in certain areas with companies offering competitive wages at least for short periods of time, Woodward warned against the downside of such bumps in prosperity.
A wage increase is followed by a huge inflation factor, he cautioned. Woodward referred to the massive increase in prices for housing in parts of Labrador where he does business.
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Province tough sell to immigrants if projects short term, panellist says
“These huge increases in housing and all of that are just making us a very expensive place to do business,” Woodward said, adding the only person who benefits from such increases is the one who sells and moves away.
Woodward was clear his desire for increased immigration did not include seeing people from away taking the jobs of people who are here and employed.
“In the long run, this is going to become a very expensive place to do things. And the only avenue that I see that’s going to prevent it from becoming noncompetitive globally is to have more people here. I think we’re going to need not 10,000 and not 50,000,” he said. “I’m talking about being able to support the economy as we go forward. We won’t have enough workforce to support the 500,000 (people) we’ve got.”
In the long run, this is going to become a very expensive place to do things. And the only avenue that I see that’s going to prevent it from becoming noncompetitive globally is to have more people here. Peter Woodward Woodward Group of Cos.
He said the province needs people in the next five to ten years.
One of Woodward’s co-panellists — Jason Muise of Technip Canada — said attracting such large numbers of people would be an enormous challenge in a place that has projects with estimated five- to 10-year lifespans.
“To try to provide a picture which is a long-term future of Newfoundland and Labrador is a challenge for people and not just new immigrants, but also Newfoundlanders who’ve moved out West and have their family entrenched in Fort McMurray. They’re not coming back for as three-year project.”
There will be other projects, Muise admitted, but pointed to the four or five large projects that are changing the economy of the province now with no way of knowing what will happen beyond their five vibrant years.
Without that promise, the province is a tough sell as a large immigration destination, he said.
While Woodward was adamant the province needs more people, his confidence in their arrival was not as strong.
“I’m very much afraid that’s not going to happen,” he said.