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Saint John Sets Ambitious 2030 Targets To Attract And Retain Immigrants

By Scott Pettigrew Nov 30, 2022 | 6:00 AM

Saint John must attract, and retain, 12,000 newcomers over the next ten years, according to the city and the Saint John Local Immigration Partnership.

The two organizations laid out their strategy to do that in a new report, released on November 29. The report says Saint John must hit that 12,000-person mark to address persistent declines in population and the negative impacts that will have on the economy and quality of life in the city.

The document, entitled Succeed and Stay, says finding meaningful, well-paying work was easily the biggest barrier newcomers identified to staying and succeeding in the region. Language barriers, social connections, housing, and finding familiar foods in grocery stores are other factors.

“The plan calls for us to be the most welcoming community in Canada. There’s a long way to go, but we believe that we can get there,” City Manager John Collin said at the launch of the strategy at the Saint John Trade and Convention Centre.

As the city’s population declines, immigration has been identified as the key strategy to pick up the slack and keep Saint John vibrant.

“We’re looking at growth, and we’ve targeted two per cent growth annually for population. We figure that a big percentage of that growth will be immigration, and so we’ve made it clear to the federal government that we are looking for our share of that population when they come in,” said Saint John Mayor Donna Reardon. “To let them know that we have a strategy here of how we will make sure people succeed and stay, that‘s really what we want to do.”

The study was the culmination of nearly three years of surveys and in-depth interviews with over 900 newcomers. It attempts to identify gaps in the city’s strategy for retaining immigrants and propose solutions to address those shortcomings.

The three strategic goals of the study are to “Attract, Enhance and Retain” immigrants. Some of the specific strategies include creating a pilot program for segmented and targeted skilled immigrants, establishing a “no wrong door” approach to immigration support services, and expanding and improving core settlement services that address key gaps in the journey.

By 2030, the city hopes it will have the support in place to convince 90 per cent of immigrants to stay.

By the same timeline, the strategy aims for international students to make up 25 per cent of all students in post-secondary programs in the region, and of those students, 50 per cent will be enticed to stay in the region.

The city also has high hopes for increasing Francophone immigration to the region, aiming for francophones to make up 20 per cent of immigrants to the area by 2030.

“The city will execute on its newly approved housing strategy, including an increase to the inventory supply. As we welcome more new citizens to the city, we need more housing to ensure that they have adequate places to live,” said David Dobbelsteyn, co-chair of the Saint John Local Immigration Partnership and acting director of growth and community services for the City.

“The success of this strategy will be dependent on seeing an overall increase in the provincial allocation for immigration over the next five years.”

Before 2011, the vast majority of immigrants to the region were from the United States or the United Kingdom. But since 2011, Asian immigrants now make up 77 per cent of newcomers. Almost 60 per cent of newcomers arrive via the economic stream, while 23 per cent arrive via family class, a low percentage as compared to the rest of the country. About 15 per cent of newcomers are refugees.

Alex Graham is a reporter with Huddle, an Acadia Broadcasting content partner.


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