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EDITORIAL: Immigration program flies under radar

Static population numbers have long been a problem in Nova Scotia, meaning the province needs to take advantage of any opportunities it can toward growth. But according to the MP from Cumberland-Colchester, were missing out on a program that could help substantially.

Bill Casey commented this week to a couple of news organizations, including the Truro Daily News, saying hes puzzled more businesses arent taking advantage of a federal government pilot project aimed at boosting the number of immigrant workers in the Atlantic region. Its aimed at recruiting middle- to high-skilled employees.

This program apparently comes in recognition of the struggles in the region with many communities seeing a shrinking population – and any population increases happening in central Canada and the West.

This sounds just like what community leaders and provincial governments have been saying for the past several years about the relatively low population numbers and, hand-in-hand with that, a projected shortage of workers in coming years as more people reach retirement age.

Casey said hes disappointed the response hasnt been greater in this province. So far only 170 people have been brought in by Nova Scotia businesses. Compare that to 338 in New Brunswick – a province that also recognizes a challenge in attracting new people and retaining population.

The MP explained that the program – a partnership between the feds and the four governments of the Atlantic provinces – is designed to help businesses of all sizes in the region to attract international graduates and skilled foreign workers to fill job vacancies.

As part of its application, a company is required to do a Labour Market Impact Assessment before being qualified to hire employees under the program. The employer has to have a permanent position available, and if qualifications are met, the immigrant candidate along with family members could come to Canada as permanent residents.

Canadians are in general becoming aware in recent years of the population challenge in the country – if it werent for attracting more people projections suggest we could experience less than zero population growth within 20 years.

Successive governments have delved into the plan of trying to attract people, in particular, skilled workers. They have also made some moves toward retaining, after they have graduated, foreign students studying in Canada.

Casey adds that with unemployment numbers lower than theyve been in a decade, now would be the opportune time to use such a program to best advantage.

In musing about the relatively low number of applications, he suggested that a better job needs to be done raising awareness about the program.

Businesses interested in the program can contact their MP or find information on novascotiaimmigration.com.

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