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P.E.I. government to survey expats to learn how to bring them home

Brad Colwill, acting deputy minister of Workforce and Advanced Learning, answers a question Wednesday during a presentation to the Standing Committee on Education and Economic Development on efforts to repatriate Islanders. He was joined by Workforce and Advanced Learning Minister Sonny Gallant and Susan MacKenzie, executive director of Population Development and Strategic Initiatives.
Brad Colwill, acting deputy minister of Workforce and Advanced Learning, answers a question Wednesday during a presentation to the Standing Committee on Education and Economic Development on efforts to repatriate Islanders. He was joined by Workforce and Advanced Learning Minister Sonny Gallant and Susan MacKenzie, executive director of Population Development and Strategic Initiatives. - Jim Day

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - The government wants to learn what it will take to get expats back to P.E.I.

So they are going to ask them.

A survey, the first of its kind for the province, is being released Thursday.

“It’s less than a dozen questions,’’ Susan MacKenzie, executive director of Population Development and Strategic Initiatives, says of the survey.

“We’re only asking them for 10 minutes of their time and then we will take a deeper dive once we get the preliminary results.’’

The survey will be distributed to UPEI and Holland College’s alumni networks and promoted through WorkPEI.ca, which is an employment website connecting local employers and job seekers in Prince Edward Island. It will run from March 1 to 15.

MacKenzie says the government generally wants to learn what would entice expats - generally are people who have chosen to temporarily live and work abroad - to come back home.

“What are the areas that would entice them back? Would it be employment? Do they want to be closer to their family? What do they think about our quality of life (on P.E.I.)?’’

Poll: What would most likely entice ex-pats to return to P.E.I.?

“What are the areas that would entice them back? Would it be employment? Do they want to be closer to their family? What do they think about our quality of life (on P.E.I.)?’’
-Susan MacKenzie

The survey, which will also ask students and visitors as well as expats why they left, will be conducted by the UPEI Institute of Island Studies.

Workforce and Advanced Learning Minister Sonny Gallant says the key element of the government’s Population Action Plan is to have dialogue with people that are away to try to determine how best to bring them back.

“As the Mighty Island we work together to help each other succeed and thrive, so we need to know how government can best collaborate with local businesses, education and training providers, and community leaders to identify opportunities for those wanting to return,’’ says Gallant.

The province, as Premier Wade MacLauchlan has stated on numerous occasions, is aiming to build a resilient, diverse population of 160,000 people by the end of 2022.

The action plan focuses on recruiting, retaining and repatriating with an emphasis on growing the Island’s rural population.

Brad Colwill, acting deputy minister of Workforce and Advanced Learning, says the largest demographic of expats currently flocking home to P.E.I. fall into the 30 to 34 age group.

He says many in that demographic say they have returned out of a desire to allow their families to experience the style of life they enjoyed growing up in the province.

“We see them (expats) being one of many contributors to our population growth, which would include newcomers, increasing the level of Islanders that are choosing to stay on P.E.I. and as well as recruitment,’’ he says.

Colwill adds the largest outflow is Islanders aged 20 to 24 with many going away to school and some “just choosing to experience the world before they come back.’’

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