What attracts immigrants to Atlantic Canada? Why do newcomers stay? And what can we learn from local successes (and failures) in order to shape a positive future for all Atlantic Canadians?

These are some of the questions being addressed as part of the Public Policy Forum’s 3-year project on the topic being launched this March.

The provinces of Atlantic Canada face a stark future: address the demographic crisis or cope with the long-term consequences of an aging, shrinking population. As with the rest of the country, the Atlantic provinces are a mix of urban and rural, big and small, with linguistic differences and local ways, all overlaid in a space rich in Indigenous history. As the population regionally stagnates or even shrinks, where should efforts to reinvigorate the area be focused? And how is immigration part of the long-term solution?

While some areas – Halifax and Moncton, for instance – are booming and seeing net inflows of newcomers, many communities are shrinking. After decades of boom and bust cycles and times of net inflows offset by migration west, the region is coming together to take bold steps.

Under the leadership of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the Atlantic Growth Strategy provides a framework for Atlantic revitalization. Five pillars contribute to stimulating regional growth:

  • Immigration and skilled workforce
  • Innovation
  • Clean growth and climate change
  • Trade and investment
  • Infrastructure

This project will support the objectives of the Growth Strategy by putting a specific focus on newcomer attraction and especially retention: the push/pull factors and local community experiences that drive individual and community choices.

This project emerged from extensive consultations between the PPF and people with an interest in the long-term success of Atlantic Canada: senior leaders at IRCC and ISED in Ottawa, the Council of Atlantic Premiers Secretariat, business leaders from Atlantic Canada, ACOA, universities and colleges, and people in a variety of civil service organizations in the region. It is guided by a diverse council of advisors in Atlantic Canada.

The work will be evaluated each year by a third party at Dalhousie University. Annual research and policy topics will be identified through the advisory council, results of the annual evaluation and project partners. Each year will result in a research report, feature story taking a journalistic approach, a regional summit and presentations of findings and recommendations.

Year 1 studies newcomer retention in general.

Year 2 will include a deep dive into Francophone immigration and the nuanced differences between urban and rural communities.

Year 3 is to be determined.

The importance of business and labour market pressures will be woven through each year.

PPF welcomes collaborations and partnership opportunities for this and other Atlantic projects. Please contact Charlie Carter for more information.