Ottawa has agreed to increase the number of economic immigrants Nova Scotia can nominate this year.
The decision comes after some strong persistence by the province’s premier and immigration department.
“I think I’ve heard the message that you want immigrants,” said John McCallum, federal Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, during his speech to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday afternoon.
“I think there’s nothing like at least three conversations in the last three days with your premier and my colleague, Scott Brison to drive home that message.”
The federal government has agreed to bump the province’s nomination cap for economic immigrants by 300 to 1,350 for 2016.
The province received a similar top-up last year.
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“What we were asking for was reasonable,” Premier Stephen McNeil said on Tuesday.
“There was a commitment made to us by a former government around increasing our numbers by 300. We’ve proven not only that we need people but in fact we can meet those numbers.”
McCallum said the quotas for the next three years are currently being looked at, and the expectation is that the numbers will increase.
“If there’s one thing I understood today from the premier on down, that is that Nova Scotia wants more immigrants,” McCallum told reporters. “I understand that, I accept that and I will do my best to make it happen.”
But he also stressed Nova Scotia shouldn’t focus solely on the provincial nomination program as a way of bringing in new residents.
“Nova Scotia is leading the way in terms of things like retaining immigrants, using up your full quota, but I think each province has room to do even better in terms of optimally managing the federal stream as well as provincial nominees,” he explained.
Gerry Mills, the director of operations at Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia, agrees the province can take advantage of different streams when accepting immigrants.
“I think the minister was absolutely right,” she said.
“We can’t just rely on those caps. There are no caps for us anyway on the other streams, on the skilled worker stream, so we want to be able to bring in skilled workers into Nova Scotia as well.”
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McCallum said his government is also looking at reforming the express entry option, to better help international students stay in the country.
He is also starting a working group in Atlantic Canada that will allow the provinces to share best practices on how to attract and retain new Canadians.
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