SUMMERSIDE- Atlantic Canada’s political leaders know that their region’s future depends on a skilled workforce.
They took a step towards ensuring that happens on Tuesday when they announced that the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Project, a regional immigration program focused on retaining skilled workers, will receive an additional 500 spaces.
The four Atlantic Canadian premiers held meetings in Summerside with seven federal cabinet ministers. Discussions focused on the Atlantic Growth Strategy, an initiative geared towards improving regional immigration, economic, infrastructure and climate change programs.
The increase in AIPP spots was one of several announcements on issues ranging from regional immigration, international student programs, health information systems and overseas trade missions.
The Atlantic Immigration Pilot allows employers to fill labour needs by offering jobs to skilled foreign workers or recently graduated international students. The additional allotment will increase the total number of spots for 2018 from 2,000 to 2,500 across Atlantic Canada.
Federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said the addition of spaces to the pilot program was partly due to high demand from employers. By contrast, as of November of last year, the region had accepted less than half of the AIPP allotment for 2017.
"Like any other new immigration program, the uptake was slower than we would have preferred in 2017, but I can assure you that story is quite different today," Hussen said.
P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan said P.E.I. had filled its allotment in 2017 and, as of June, had already filled its yearly allotment of spots for 2018.
"There are another 51 employer (spots) currently that they would be ready to fill. It's in that light that the initiative and announcement from Minister Hussen today is entirely welcome,” MacLauchlan said.
According to figures provided by P.E.I.’s department of Economic Development and Tourism, the Island has seen 113 individuals receive permanent residency under the AIPP since 2016. A total of 314 endorsement applications has been received so far.
Across Atlantic Canada, 900 applications for permanent residency have been issued under the AIPP program. Over half have been approved.
Also on Tuesday, Navdeep Bains, minister of innovation, science and economic development, announced that co-ordinators for the Study and Stay program would be hired in P.E.I., Newfoundland and New Brunswick over the summer. The program provides employment support to graduated international students, including matching them with employers.
In February, Hussen announced that this program, which was first established in Nova Scotia, would be expanded throughout Atlantic Canada.
Bains said he hoped to retain an additional 200 international graduates in the region each year through the Study and Stay program.
The Atlantic leaders also announced $70 million in federal funding to improve health information systems. Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said the funding would be provided to ACCESS Atlantic to establish a digital health system which can be accessed by patients.
“Patients will finally be able to see their own health information. It will also create an electronic prescription service, which means that prescriptions can go directly from the doctor's office to the pharmacy," Petitpas said.
“You'll never have to worry about losing a prescription or dealing with someone's sometimes incomprehensible handwriting ever again."
The federal ministers and Atlantic premiers also discussed a planned trade and investment mission to China, slated for November. The trade mission will focus on improving trade relationships with China, promoting regional tourism and attracting international students.
By the numbers:
P.E.I.’s record under the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Project:
120 – P.E.I.’s yearly allotment of applicants under the program
314 – applications for endorsement have been received by potential skilled immigrants
113 – people have received permanent residency since 2016
170 – designated employers under the Pilot on P.E.I.