The population of Canada has been steadily growing, but this isn’t the case for Atlantic Canada. In the past 25 years, Canada’s population has grown over 25 per cent while Nova Scotia sits at merely 3 per cent.
Immigrants are critical for Nova Scotia to turn around its economy.
The provincial government has taken serious efforts to increase immigration, such as the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program and Atlantic International Graduate Program. Thanks to these programs, Nova Scotia reached its fastest growth rate in 2017 since the 80s.
There are more immigrants coming to Nova Scotia than ever before, but many don’t stay. The newcomers the province manages to bring in often end up moving to Toronto, Montreal and and other big cities after obtaining permanent residency.
Even Atlantic Canadians are leaving the province.
The poor economy is the main cause. There aren’t enough jobs available for immigrants or youth from outside of the province. New immigrants may lack the language skills and work experience to compete in the job market. Nova Scotia doesn’t have the capacity to provide the training necessary to absorb newcomers into the labour force right away.
Marco Navarro-Genie is the president and CEO of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, a social and economic policy think tank.
“Atlantic Canadians – like most Canadians – are very proud of their place of birth and where they live, but many of them have to leave because they want to see more opportunities for their children,” he says.
Newcomer entrepreneurship key
Entrepreneurship is an important part of the province’s developmental plan. In recent years, many start-ups sprung up in Halifax. In 2017, $2 million was awarded to Volta
Jesse Rodgers, CEO of Volta Labs says, “The start-up community in Halifax feels like Waterloo 15 years ago and it’s going to grow.”
Encouraging entrepreneurial activities is the key to pushing economic growth in Nova Scotia and retaining talent. And a new business competition tailored for immigrants and international students is gaining attention.
The Nova Scotia International Network Society and Global Shapers Halifax Hub recently co-launched the 2018 Nova Scotia International Entrepreneurship Competition (NEIEC). This is the first entrepreneurial competition in Halifax focused on supporting newcomers.
Din Fan, the co-president of Nova Scotia International Network Society says that “International students and immigrants bring diversity and international vision into the innovative market, because of they are more likely to think differently with global ambition.”
Fan highlights that this competition is the ideal platform for international students and immigrants to be proud of their international identities and showcase their ideas, “Being international has never been a hurdle. It is always an asset.”
NEIEC starts in late September. The competition is open to International and immigrant entrepreneurs as well as local entrepreneurs looking to step into the global market. The focus on diversity helps to build relationships and stronger cross-cultural communication between Halifax and the rest of the world.
For the transformation of Nova Scotia’s economic landscape, the combination of bringing more immigrants and incentivizing entrepreneurial activities is crucial. The future of Nova Scotia is promising given the many positive changes moving forward.