Special Analysis: The Need for Immigration

The Atlantic Immigration Pilot (AIP) is a new program designed to attract up to 2,000 additional immigrants to Atlantic Canada in 2017. The focus of the AIP is to improve the process for skilled immigrants and international graduates who want to live in any of the four Atlantic provinces. To qualify, participants must receive a job offer from a designated Atlantic employer. A Labour Market Impact Assessment is not required.

The AIP has three streams, two for skilled workers (Atlantic High-Skilled Program and Atlantic Intermediate-Skilled Program) and one for international graduates (Atlantic International Graduate Program). Workers looking to enter via the work streams must have worked for at least one year (1,560 hours total or 30 hours per week). The work must be from within the last three years and can be full-time, non-continuous or part-time as long as it is in one occupation and paid. Workers who apply must be either high-skilled workers (work experience at NOC skill level 0, A, or B) or intermediate-skilled workers with work experience at NOC skill level C.3 Both streams require applicants to have attained a Canadian secondary or post-secondary certificate, diploma, or degree or foreign credential and Education Credential Assessment (ECA).

Why is this important? 

In 2016, Nova Scotia had a record year for immigration. The cap on the Express Entry Program, the federal system for managing permanent residence applications, was permanently increased by 350 to 1,350 immigrants. This was then filled. For 2017, Nova Scotia’s immigration cap has been increased by 800 applicants, New Brunswick’s by 640, Newfoundland and Labrador’s by 440, and Prince Edward Island’s by 120. If other provinces do not meet their quota for the AIP, Nova Scotia becomes eligible to pick up these unused openings and attract even more new skilled immigrants.

Increasing international migration by 7,000 new permanent residents each year is the second goal of the One Nova Scotia report, Now or Never: An Urgent Call to Action for Nova Scotians. This is an ambitious target. In the 18 years prior to 2015, the province had a net permanent migration of 2,150 people on average. If the Express Entry and the AIP allotments are reached, this would account for more than one-third of Nova Scotia’s goal for total immigration. The AIP is even more impactful as candidates can also bring their families.

Halifax will be doing everything it can to ensure it attracts a significant share of the immigrants coming into Atlantic Canada via the new AIP. Over the past five years, Halifax has accounted for 81.4% of Nova Scotia’s international migration. In 2016, the city nearly tripled its international immigration, from 2,320 in 2015 to 6,150 last year. Some of this growth was due to the increase in Syrian refugees and the addition of new economic immigration streams. Overall, migration accounted for 7,000 new Halifax residents, with 6,150 immigrants arriving from other countries and 1,270 newcomers arriving intra-provincially, coupled with a loss of 440 people to other Canadian provinces. This is a significant population bump when compared to the natural growth of only 1,170 people, the lowest in over 15 years. Halifax must build on current momentum and continue to increase immigration. If our record population growth is to be sustained, immigration, specifically international immigration, must be the driver.

Nearly half (48%) of City Matters survey respondents support or strongly support efforts to substantially increase immigration to Halifax, with 30% declaring themselves neutral and 18% opposed. In terms of assessing the job that the people and government of Halifax are doing in welcoming new immigrants and helping them to integrate, 57% said excellent or good, 22% said fair, and 5% said poor (16% said don’t know or had no answer).

Business Competitiveness 

For businesses to remain competitive and innovative, they must employ top talent in their field. It is not uncommon for a local economy to face talent shortages in high-skill occupations, which in turn slows productivity growth. The AIP creates a fast track for professional workers in addition to the Nova Scotia Demand: Express Entry, which selects highly skilled individuals who wish to live in Nova Scotia permanently. The additional 800 highly educated and skilled immigrants provided by the AIP will mean that over 2,100 trained workers could become part of Nova Scotia’s workforce next year.

SA- Immigration Chart 1

Most of these immigrants will work in Halifax, the province’s economic hub. The new Atlantic High-Skilled Program creates new opportunities to accelerate the process for local businesses to hire skilled talent, such as software engineers, tradespeople, computer programmers, and doctors. It will help grow these sectors and aligns with Halifax’s value proposition to further develop the IT and ocean sectors.

What this means for Atlantic Canada

As shown in the chart above, each of the four Atlantic provinces experienced a jump in immigration last year. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador saw their net immigration either double or triple. Prince Edward Island’s immigration grew by approximately 70%.

Each of the Atlantic provinces experienced slow population growth over the past five years, with a total growth rate of 0.5%. Prince Edward Island grew the most, at 2.5%; however, given the Island’s small size, this growth accounts for only 3,600 people.

How Halifax will benefit

Halifax currently welcomes the largest number of immigrants in Atlantic Canada. According to CBRE’s 2016 Canadian Tech Talent Scorecard, Halifax has seen 50% growth in the number of tech occupations between 2010 and 2015. To keep up with this demand, Halifax businesses will need to utilize tools like the AIP to attract the talent they need.5 During this period, 2,138 mathematics and computer and information science students graduated from universities in Halifax, which is significantly less than the approximate 6,000 jobs added in the tech industry that required these skills. This suggests that Halifax schools are not producing enough graduates in the IT sector to match the growth of the industry. Using the AIP and Express Entry programs is an efficient way for IT employers to access the talent they need.

Without increasing immigration, population growth for both Halifax and Nova Scotia will stagnate as the population continues to age. Immigration is necessary to ensure the province’s youth do not face an overwhelming tax burden as the number of elderly people in Nova Scotia rises. Overall, increasing immigration will benefit the economy and enhance the city’s cultural diversity. Having additional highly skilled labour will attract new companies and enable businesses to accelerate growth.

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