‘We’re determined to get more than our share of newcomers,’ Premier Jason Kenney told reporters in downtown Calgary on February 16. The Alberta government is hoping two new programs will bring more immigrants to rural Alberta communities.
Speaking at the Fairness for Newcomers Summit in downtown Calgary on February 16, Wednesday, Premier Jason Kenney said the programs will encourage skilled workers from abroad to settle outside the province’s big cities to help fill anticipated labour shortages.
“We’re determined to get more than our share of newcomers,” Kenney said. “Newcomers don’t take jobs away from Albertans but help to create jobs. They create additional demand, they create additional wealth and, very typically, they create additional businesses that hire people.”
The Rural Renewal Stream will allow municipalities outside the Calgary and Edmonton metropolitan areas with fewer than 100,000 people to apply to become a designated community for immigrants.
The other program, the Rural Entrepreneur Stream, will let immigrants who want to start or buy a business in rural Alberta visit communities to assess their plans. The UCP had first pitched the programs as campaign promises before the 2019 provincial election.
The Wednesday announcement comes in the wake of the 2021 census, which revealed Alberta has seven of the 10 fastest-shrinking municipalities across Canada, all in far-flung rural areas, as rural communities face ageing populations and a dwindling workforce.
Immigrant Services Calgary applauded the new initiatives, saying they expect plans to boost rural immigration to have broader economic benefits for the province.
“The rural immigration streams announced today will not only contribute to the local economies of small towns and centres across Alberta, but they’ll also support and grow the provincial economy,” said Hyder Hassan, CEO of the local non-profit.
The Opposition NDP criticized the announcement, saying additional community supports need to be established in communities that will be welcoming immigrants. “These new streams will not be enough to help communities set newcomers up for success,” NDP labour critic Christina Gray said in a statement.
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