SAINT JOHN- The province of New Brunswick has a new strategy to tackle its population growth problem.
The provincial government unveiled the new plan called New Beginnings: A Population Growth Strategy for New Brunswick 2019-2024 on Tuesday in a jam-packed room at Port Saint John’s Diamond Jubilee Cruise Terminal.
The strategy was created to address current and future labour market needs and is built on recent initiatives, such as the Atlantic Growth Strategy and the New Brunswick Multicultural Council’s New Conversations Post-Tour Report.
“Back in November when I arrived in the department, [officials] briefed me and explained that approximately 120,000 [jobs] will become available in our province over the next 10 years, resulting in more jobs than people to fill them,” says Trevor Holder, minister of New Brunswick’s department of post-secondary education, training and labour (PETL), during the announcement.
“I knew at that point that we couldn’t fail. New Brunswick needs population growth and it’s critical to the future success of this province, which brings us to why we are all here today.”
The new strategy and accompanying action plan focus on three targets. The first is growing New Brunswick’s population by increasing the immigration target over time to welcoming up to 7,500 newcomers annually by 2024. Doing this would bring the province’s annual immigration intake to about one per cent of the population.
Another focus of the strategy is to support the retention of newcomers to New Brunswick by reaching a one-year retention rate of 85 per cent by 2024. The province plans to help do this by partnering with community leaders, local governments, francophone organizations and other provincial departments. It also plans to support settlement services for newcomers and help more international students stay in New Brunswick.
The strategy’s third big focus is to continue to target a two per cent annual increase in French-speaking immigrants through the provincial immigration programs to reach 33 per cent by 2024.
PETL has budgeted $2 million to go towards implementing the initiatives in the strategy.
“I think what’s really important to note here is that a lot of this is about coordination and tearing some of the silos down so that all government agencies and community groups are working together to try and create what I call that ‘stickiness’ that keeps people in a community and creates that vibrancy,” Holder told reporters after the announcement.
“What’s going to be different about this strategy versus all the others that we had in the past is that there’s going to be a greater focus on the vibrancy of the community and creating that exciting dynamic environment where people are going to want to come to that community and live.”
This includes both the province’s bigger urban centres and its smaller rural communities.
We’re seeing some really exciting things happening in some of the smaller communities. It’s not just the bigger centres anymore,” said Holder. “This is about creating that dynamic environment so that my children are going to want to live here. And quite frankly, if the rest of the world is coming here because New Brunswick is an exciting place to be, then our young people are going to want to stay here too.”
For Thomas Raffy, president and CEO of Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick, an organization that represents and advocates for Francophone businesses in the province, the strategy’s focus on the Francophone community is crucial.
“The reason for that is because we need to make sure we keep the vitality of our Francophone communities because [they] are mostly in rural New Brunswick, and rural New Brunswick has challenges that some urban areas don’t have when it comes to youth leaving and birth rates,” said Raffy. “Attracting Francophone newcomers and Francophone immigrant entrepreneurs is an important aspect of this plan that we will specifically collaborate with this government, make sure they hit their targets and support our businesses.”
Though the plan offers concrete targets and clear actions, Raffy says whether or not it’s successful depends on if everyone is willing to put in the work, not just the government.
“The strategy is great on paper, but now it’s time for all of us to roll up our sleeves and get to work,” he said.