HALIFAX– The number of immigrants to Atlantic Canada has tripled since 2002, reaching a record 8,300 in 2015, according to the latest report issued Thursday by the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC).
The organization also reported a further increase last year, as more than 11,600 newcomers came to the region in the first nine months of 2016, due in part to an influx of Syrian refugees.
APEC attributes the recent increase in immigration to expanded use of Provincial Nominee Programs, and predicts further growth through a new federal Atlantic Immigration Pilot.
“We estimate that the total number of provincial nominees in Atlantic Canada could reach 10,600 a year,” said David Chaundy, APEC’s director of research and the author of the report. “This suggests total immigration to the region, which would include family class, refugees and other economic immigrants, could average about 13,900 annually, even as the number of refugees returns to more normal levels.”
In addition to those programs, the federal and four provincial governments in Atlantic Canada announced an Atlantic Immigration Pilot in 2016 that would allow entry of a further 2,000 principal applicants this year. If these totals are met, APEC says it could push total Atlantic immigration to 18,700.
“Immigrants take time to integrate, but generally achieve positive economic outcomes in Atlantic Canada, with high rates of employment and above-average incomes for provincial nominees,” said Chaundy. “However, retention rates are much lower than they are in other provinces. Fewer than half of economic immigrants file taxes in the region five years after landing.”
The report notes that increased immigration to Atlantic Canada will depend in large part upon employers recruiting permanent international workers, as most economic immigrants need a job offer.
“However, lengthy processing times are a barrier to greater use of immigration by the business community,” said Chaundy. “The federal government needs to ensure it has sufficient resources to process all economic applications in a timely manner.”