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CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - A $40,000 ad campaign to lure Islanders back home came under fire in the P.E.I. legislature on Tuesday.
The campaign, “Maybe you Should Move Home”, included $40,000 in ads on radio and on social media, as well as the cost of a one-way ticket back to P.E.I.
The contest offered Islanders the chance to win a one-way plane ticket back to the Island from anywhere in the world.
Workforce and Advance Learning Minister Sonny Gallant says it was money well spent.
“It created a buzz right across the province," Gallant said.
The winner of the contest, Marianne Dennis, had moved back to P.E.I. after living several years in Toronto.
The contest had 45 entries and a web page attached to the contest hit 1,860 visits.
However, no data exists of whether individual entrants eventually moved back.
Opposition MLA Steven Myers said the province only needs to look at the shortage of skilled tradespeople to know the program was a failure.
He said a panelist at a recent Explore Economics East conference had described the labour shortage as “extreme”.
"How many skilled tradespeople were attracted home because of your campaign?" Myers asked.
Gallant said his department had extended help to construction associations on P.E.I.
"The construction association came to us a year and a half ago and informed us there was going to be a shortage. We helped them and we set in programs,” Gallant said.
Gallant told the house that 300 people had entered P.E.I.’s construction industry last year, and another 100 had entered the industry this year.
In an interview with The Guardian, Myers said people in a variety of industries have talked to him about skill shortages on P.E.I.
He said there is often a six-month wait for contractors looking to do renovations on their homes.
He said the comparatively lower wages in P.E.I. often mean local tradespeople seek jobs elsewhere.
“It’s hard to compete with the Alberta wages,” Myers said.
“It makes it really hard to attract back. But there’s an age demographic who will come back. It’s one thing when you’re young. It's another thing when you're older. But when you're in those middle years when you have kids at home, those people want to be home.”
Myers suggested that high personal income taxes on P.E.I. have not helped draw back skilled workers.
In an interview, Gallant said the contest was an important component of changing ideas about the Island’s economy.
"We need to promote Prince Edward Island. As we're all aware, people that went away 10, 15 years ago, P.E.I.'s a lot different than it was then. There's more opportunities, the wages are better," Gallant said.