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Letter: Atlantic Growth Strategy will combat our demographic crisis

The Harris Centre’s recent report on Regional Population Projections for Newfoundland and Labrador 2016-2036 (A. Simms and J. Ward, September 2017) sounds a wake-up call for our province. This comprehensive analysis identifies the challenges we face stemming from our demographic situation and decades of stagnant regional growth.

To tackle these challenges, the federal government is co-operating with the four provincial Liberal governments in Atlantic Canada to adopt an Atlantic Growth Strategy focused on five key pillars: infrastructure; skilled workforce and immigration; trade and investment; innovation; and clean growth and climate change.

Infrastructure is what keeps our communities moving, healthy and able to grow. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the focus on infrastructure means recovering from almost a decade of neglect from the previous federal government and the inability of past governments to work together to do what is best for our province.

Your seven Liberal MPs have put our backs into recovering from this lost decade. Since being sworn in November 2015, we have been delivering on important infrastructure needs. As of Sept. 1, the new level of engagement has seen over $290 million in federal infrastructure support being provided to our province. In less than two years, we have surpassed the $277 million spent by the former government while in power for over nine years. These investments mean that communities across Newfoundland and Labrador have the funding they need to undertake the work required to make water cleaner and communities healthier, and to promote “green” solutions.

Knowing the demographic challenges that face us, we recognize the value of a robust immigration system. Last summer, the federal government launched the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program, which aims to bring 2,000 skilled workers and their families to Atlantic Canada each year. The Genesis Centre at Memorial University is now able to participate in the Startup Visa Program, which will bring skilled entrepreneurs and their families to our province and help them to build their businesses right here.

Under the leadership of your Atlantic federal Liberal caucus, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration is continuing the study of Immigration to Atlantic Canada. In my new role on this committee, I will help shape the strategic recommendations needed to increase beneficial immigration to our region.

The benefits of a pan-Atlantic Canadian approach under the Atlantic Growth Strategy are felt in many different areas of policy development. The National Trade Corridors Fund works with stakeholders on strategic infrastructure projects that help address transportation bottlenecks, vulnerabilities and congestion along Canada’s trade corridors. A total of $2 billion allocated for this fund over 11 years will go to support important transport infrastructure.

Lobbying by Atlantic Canada MPs has helped ensure that the smaller airports of Atlantic Canada are not unfairly excluded from federal infrastructure funds. Coupled with the completion of the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement with the European Union (CETA), this will see that Newfoundland and Labrador has much-needed economic development as trade and transport corridors expand in the coming years.

The environment and the economy go hand in hand, and the federal government has taken this approach to adapting our innovation agenda to suit Atlantic Canada’s strengths. Investments in cold ocean research recognize the strategic importance of Memorial University and the Ocean Frontier Institute, which will play an important role in nurturing a cluster of world-leading oceans research projects in Atlantic Canada, and also in helping answer the fundamental questions of sustainability in a warming climate.

Newfoundland and Labrador is at the margin of the Arctic and represents the best location in the North Atlantic from which to study these issues and help us unlock the value of Canada’s Arctic coastline. The new collaborative approach relies on partnerships with the provinces, municipalities, universities, indigenous groups and other stakeholders. In St. John’s East, whether we are partnering with Rainbow Riders, Memorial University, the provincial government or any of our community groups, towns and cities — our approach is working.

As we optimistically tackle the challenges laid bare by the Harris Centre’s work, please know that we will have all hands on deck.

 

Nick Whalen, MP

St. John’s East

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