Provincial policy will prioritize those with skill sets in engineering and development, as well as technology specialists
Highly skilled immigrants to Newfoundland and Labrador will gain a direct pathway to permanent resident status starting in 2021.
Premier Andrew Furey, Immigration Minister Gerry Byrne and Culture Minister Bernard Davis were at Memorial University’s Signal Hill Campus on Wednesday to announce a new plan under the province’s Provincial Nominee Program.
Starting on Jan. 2, 2021, a master's or doctoral student or a person with specialized skills originally from another country will be able to take advantage of the pathway, called Priority Skills Newfoundland and Labrador.
The policy prioritizes those with skill sets in engineering and development, as well as technology specialists. The list of those sought-after skills will be updated regularly to address labour-market needs. Applicants must be 21 years old at the time of application to the program and must complete language competency tests in order to qualify.
We built one of the strongest universities in the world here. @MemorialU is world renowned in Ocean Sciences, Engineering & Digital Technologies among other fields. We attract the best in the world to study here. It makes sense to encourage them to stay @ISL_GovNL pic.twitter.com/1roeBGsqFL— Gerry Byrne (@Gerry_Byrne) November 18, 2020
Furey says not only can the pathway address the needs of the growing technology sector in the province, it can also help a dire demographic forecast for Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Part of it is me looking at the demographic crisis that we’re facing and realizing that some of our immigration policies can be more open and advanced,” said Furey.
“We’re planning to really have a robust immigration policy for Newfoundland and Labrador. At the crux of the problem is the demographic crisis. Right now, 20 per cent of our population is 65 years and older. We have the lowest fertility rate, some of the highest comorbidity and mortality rates across the country. We need to fix this. Continuing to ignore it is not going to do it. We’re starting with baby steps.”
There is no set target for how many newcomers will be welcomed to the province through the new pathway, but the overall target for newcomers to the province will be 2,500 in 2021.
According to the 2020 budget document, even the higher target will not be enough to offset the outmigration trend in the province.
“Migration continued to be the primary factor influencing population change,” reads an excerpt of The Economy 2020.
“Net out-migration totalled 2,668 persons in 2018-19 — a gain of 1,833 from international migration was offset by a loss of 4,501 from interprovincial migration.”
Net out-migration totalled 2,668 persons in 2018-19 — a gain of 1,833 from international migration was offset by a loss of 4,501 from interprovincial migration. — excerpt from 2020 provincial budget
Byrne says he has been tasked with creating an anti-racism policy for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to complement its immigration policy. While there is no clear timeline for developing the policy, Byrne says work will begin in the “coming weeks and months.”
“(Furey) deliberately, purposely is holding me to account to forming an anti-racism strategy, working with fellow colleagues and cabinet ministers in our government, working with the caucus, working with the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to address systemic racism,” said Byrne.
“Which is very real, which does exist, and we must combat. The premier, to the best of my knowledge, for the first time ever has written that into the mandate letter of a minister.”
The language in Byrne’s mandate letter asks him to develop a “ministerial committee on anti-racism.”
Yamini Kosaraju, a computer engineering student at Memorial University who is originally from India, said, “I think this is a great opportunity for somebody like me, especially in these areas of work experience.
“I think some of my friends are actually interested to stay in Newfoundland and Labrador, but due to whatever reason, they couldn’t find the jobs or they had to move. I think this will help everybody to stay here, so that I can have my friends here.”
Mary Shortall, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, says Wednesday’s announcement is good news for the province, though the demographic challenge needs a holistic approach.
“I was glad to hear the minister talk about the anti-racism work and the other work going with it. Any initiative of government that combines those will not only enrich the economy, it will also enrich the culture and the diversity of our province,” she said.
Richard Alexander, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council, says businesses will welcome the opportunity to bring in highly skilled staff.
“Immigration will impact the recovery of this province. It will impact our future economic growth. We’ve fallen behind other provinces. This is one piece of a much larger puzzle,” he said.
“This government is being serious about immigration. It’s a very positive thing.”
Progressive Conservative immigration critic Paul Dinn says the demographic challenge before the province needs even more action to combat the declining population on Newfoundland and Labrador.
“The whole crux of this is trying to encourage individuals, international students, to stay in the province and live in the province and contribute to our economy. But if you look at the full picture of population growth, you have your natural growth: how many are born, how many die,” said Dinn.
“If you took the 2019 numbers, as an example, about 4,000 infants were born. At the same time, we had about 5,400 residents pass away. We’re behind by 1,400 there. Then you look at outmigration for the same period. We had outmigration of about 2,700. We talk about the immigration numbers coming in and talk about bringing in, hopefully, 2,500. Even if you have your 2,500, you’re still behind. It’s a good initiative to have, but it’s really not doing anything different.”