Immigration essential to province’s economy: CEO

Josh Pennell
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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.  

See PROVINCE, page D2

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.

Organizations: Newfoundland Labrador Open for Business

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Fort McMurray

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Recent comments

  • Brett
    November 14, 2013 - 19:03

    We need to stop thinking about immigrants as poor displaced people. They are brave people looking for prosperity. If you've read the immigration report by the province, you will see that they don't get that. Promoting MUN as an inexpensive way to obtain post secondary education would be a start. Looking at what has made Brampton a hot spot for Indian immigrants would also help, the types on subdivisions and housing they have there, the types of services other municipalities provide etc. Education, jobs in relevant fields (oil, engineering - Mun is doubling the number of engineers it can graduate over the next 5 years) - those are big things that we should be selling to protective immigrants. Quite frankly there are millions of immigrants out there with large bank accounts, and they're the people we want to have come to NL, not the displaced charity cases. As for the lazy people who want to live off of government largess, let the economy grow and leave them further and further behind. You can't help people who don't try to help themselves.

  • scottie
    November 14, 2013 - 18:12

    What kind of immigration? There are many types. What kind of studies have been done on social cohesion? Have you considered this or is this only about economics? Have you looked at other jurisdictions such as Great Britain that have gone further down this road? They are having huge problems with immigrants who are incompatible with British values. Have you considered what the possible drawbacks are to a haphazard immigration approach? Have you explored any other alternatives such as incentive for higher birth rates or offered packages for Newfoundlanders abroad? Just a few questions to consider.

  • Charles
    November 14, 2013 - 05:24

    Please stop with the foreigner , Get those healthy young men and women who are sitting home, doing nothing, just waiting for a cheque twice a month to come in. Put them to work, help to remove some of the burden from the taxpayers back