New Brunswick had a record-breaking 6,000 new permanent residents settle in the province in 2019, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada — a 30 per cent increase from 2018 when 4,610 newcomers landed.
“In 2017, fewer than 15 per cent of immigrants settled outside of Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John, and in 2019, almost 25 per cent, so this is a really positive trend for the small, medium-sized cities,” said Alex LeBlanc, executive director of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council.
Miramichi and Edmundston saw the highest percentage increases in 2019. Miramichi welcomed 140 people, a 133 per cent rise from the 60 who moved to the rural town in 2018. Edmundston came in second place with 135 newcomers, a 124 per cent increase from the previous year.
“Over 90 per cent are coming through economic streams so that means they have an employer that’s supporting them, they have a job offer, and this really is people coming to support our economy,” said LeBlanc.
The president of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce says immigration is the No. 1 economic driver in the province.
“Newcomers are bringing their talents with them, so we, as a business community, need to open the door and hire the people that are coming here and help them to settle in,” said Krista Ross, president of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce.
With shortages in the health-care, transportation and food-service sectors, the Multicultural Association of Fredericton recommends attracting as many skilled newcomers as possible and providing support services to keep them in the province.
“When we increase the numbers, we just need to make sure that there are enough seats in language training for the people who are arriving and that we have the human resources to provide those supports,” said Lisa Bamford De Gante, executive director of the Multicultural Association of Fredericton.
LeBlanc said developing local- and regional-level immigration strategies are goals of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council. There was a spike in government-assisted refugees in 2019, with 420 settling in the province, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
“We need to tackle the issue of creating more housing to accommodate our growing population, and we’re going to need to be thinking long term on settlement investments to make sure the services are there for these new families,” said LeBlanc.