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Employment central to upping N.L. immigration numbers

Verafin co-founder Brendan Brothers offers a welcome at the launch of the province’s new immigration plan, held at the Verafin office off of Hebron Way in St. John’s Friday. Minister Gerry Byrne pointed to Verafin as a company active in bringing skilled individuals to the province.
Verafin co-founder Brendan Brothers offers a welcome at the launch of the province’s new immigration plan, held at the Verafin office off of Hebron Way in St. John’s Friday. Minister Gerry Byrne pointed to Verafin as a company active in bringing skilled individuals to the province.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s Liberal government remains committed to seeing 1,700 new immigrants a year settling in the province by 2022.

The target is more than three times the number recorded in 2007 and nearly 600 more people than in 2015. But according to the minister responsible, Gerry Byrne, it’s doable.

In unveiling a new immigration strategy, he pointed to employment as key to Newfoundland and Labrador meeting its goal. A job opportunity can be the difference between coming here or not and, Byrne said, there are spaces opening up in the province that cannot be filled by people already living and working here. There are also newcomers who can create jobs through new businesses.

The traditionally underutilized provincial nominee program demands local employers be engaged in the process. A previously announced pilot program, looking for 2,000 new immigrants for Atlantic Canada in the coming year (individuals who could ultimately seek to become permanent residents), similarly requires employer participation, leading Byrne to emphasize the province’s interest in working with employers.

The launch of “The Way Forward on Immigration” was held at the headquarters of software company Verafin, a company praised for its recruitment.

“It’s a company that’s grown by employing Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, but also attracting international talent,” the minister said, applauding the firm.

 

No new funding

There was no new money announced with the province’s immigration plan.

Over the next three years, beginning in fiscal year 2017-18, roughly $8.9 million is in place to help with immigrant recruitment and retention. That includes $5.7 million in provincial program funding and $3.2 million in federal funding.

As for specific actions, there are 39 in all in the formal immigration plan document.

Byrne said the Liberals are already seeing provincial paperwork processed faster.

“The longer time it takes to process an application, the greater the possibility is that somebody may move elsewhere, someone may choose elsewhere,” he said.

In 2017, people can expect new websites, social media campaigns, a survey for expatriates, outreach to local employers, more government travel to international recruitment events and a minister’s roundtable on immigration.

You’ll see more cultural events being recognized, including holidays not traditionally recognized here by public officials.

There will be discussions with the federal government around, among other things, a proposed introduction of new categories under the provincial nominee program: international entrepreneur, international graduate entrepreneur and international investor.

As the five-year plan moves along, expect a new online portal for the provincial nominee program, a campaign to promote provincial multiculturalism, a two-year pilot for work placements for international students, a possible pilot expansion of settlement services beyond the Avalon and a “welcoming communities” pilot program, with “cultural competency and diversity training” for employers and community organizations also developed in partnership with the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission.

 

It takes a village

Above all, Byrne said, work with outside organizations — community groups, educational institutions, businesses — will help the Liberal efforts to stand apart and succeed where immigration efforts have not.

He brushed off any suggestion the current economic climate and taxation regime might deter immigrants, saying the province remains competitive within Canada and generally attractive to new Canadians.

It’s unclear what the planned efforts might mean for retention, something the province has been challenged by. A report released by the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council earlier this year noted only 40 per cent of immigrants remained 10 years after first settling in the province.

But there was a generally positive response to the province’s plan Friday.

“I think it’s really a right step in a great direction for the province,” said Tony Fang, the Stephen Jarislowsky Chair in Cultural and Economic Transformation at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Fang gave a public presentation earlier in the week on the socioeconomic benefits of immigration.

He said the new plan is a step forward in bringing needed outside human resources and capital into Newfoundland and Labrador.

Carol McDonald leads the board of directors of the Association for New Canadians and she spoke during the launch.

“Newcomers enrich our province in so many ways and there is a broad recognition that their contributions help to drive innovation and economic growth while at the same time enriching our social and cultural landscape,” she said.

“We recognize that our province is facing demographic and labour market challenges and I am confident that the strategies identified as part of the immigration action plan will help us address some of those issues.”

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