Between 2011 and 2016, Atlantic Canada experienced the weakest population growth in the country. This was due in part to the region’s low intake of immigrants.
Population growth is important to promoting the economic growth that is necessary for maintaining high living standards in Atlantic Canada. Recognizing this, the four Atlantic provinces — Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick — are making significant efforts to welcome and retain more newcomers.
These efforts are already bearing fruit as the region has recently enjoyed much-needed population growth thanks to higher immigration levels.
Tracking toward 6.5 per cent of Canada’s immigrants
Atlantic Canada comprises 6.5 per cent of Canada’s population but has struggled to attract its proportionate share of the country’s newcomers. In the early 2000s, the region was only able to attract one per cent of newcomers.
This is improving, however, and the region is currently on track to increase its newcomer share to five per cent in 2019. (See Chart 1). It is now welcoming more than 14,000 newcomers annually compared with just 3,000 two decades ago.
This growth should be celebrated, but more work remains. With the exception of PEI, the other three Atlantic provinces still lag the national per capita newcomer intake.
Nevertheless, the current trends suggest the region could welcome its proportionate share of Canada’s newcomers sometime in the 2020s.
Just like in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Atlantic Canada has depended on the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) to fuel its rising immigration levels.
The PNP was launched in 1999 to help smaller provinces and territories attract more newcomers. New Brunswick was the first province in Canada’s Atlantic region to adopt the PNP, doing so the same year it launched and Newfoundland and Labrador followed shortly after (See Table 2). PEI and Nova Scotia were the next to join, in 2001 and 2003, respectively.
In 2017, the Atlantic Immigration Pilot (AIP) was introduced to give the region an extra tool for attracting more economic class newcomers. Since then, nearly 4,200 newcomers have gained permanent residence through the AIP.