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Another year, another record number of immigrants for Nova Scotia.
It’s great news that the province welcomed 7,580 new permanent residents to our shores last year, shattering its 2018 record of 5,970 newcomers. That’s about a 27 per cent increase.
Immigration — which has been setting records right across Atlantic Canada — helped drive Nova Scotia’s population to a high of 976,768 as of Oct. 1, 2019, according to Statistics Canada.
That’s important for a number of reasons.
Since Ottawa’s health transfers are based on population, more Nova Scotians means more federal health-care dollars for this province. That said, the funding formula remains unfair to Nova Scotia, as it doesn’t take into account our relatively older population and its correspondingly increased demand for health-care services. But unless the federal program is possibly changed — something Nova Scotian politicians have called for for many years — every jump in our population numbers helps.
Meanwhile, more working-age newcomers also helps address — albeit in a small way, given the magnitude of the problem — Nova Scotia’s labour shortage.
That labour deficit affects the entire country, though it's exacerbated here by our demographics. It's the result of the population’s extra-large cohort of baby boomers heading into retirement, at the same time far fewer young workers are entering the workforce.
And the youngest boomers — who make up the largest number of that group — will be hitting the common retirement age of 65 over the coming decade. That means the labour crunch is projected to continue for a while.
So it’s good to see immigration swelling across Atlantic Canada. In 2019, 18,000 newcomers made their homes in this part of the country. Compared to just a decade ago, when only 8,000 immigrants made homes in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador in 2010, that’s up significantly.
We’ve all seen the stories of how immigrants are making new homes in our beautiful — and conflict-free — part of the planet, adding to the cultural diversity of our communities, with many also starting businesses and creating employment.
Among those newcomers are dozens of badly needed physicians, including family doctors.
Though the news is good, it’s also true that this region — including Nova Scotia — still underperforms the rest of the country when it comes to attracting immigrants.
Statistics show Atlantic Canada’s 2019 immigration numbers made up about 5.5 per cent of the 341,000 newcomers to Canada last year. But our region’s population is closer to 6.5 per cent of the nation’s total.
What’s important, however, is that we are catching up.