Fort St. John will look to see how it can take part in the federal government's Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot program.
Mayor Lori Ackerman brought the matter to council on Monday, and said she has received calls about the city’s participation. Launched in 2019, the program gives select communities the ability to identify and recruit skilled foreign workers to fill labour shortages, and endorse them for permanent residency.
“I’m not sure where we're at right now. I know that a lot of the early childhood education international students, I mean, we’re crying for early childhood educators in our daycares, and they’re unable to stay in Canada if they can’t get approved through this process,” Ackerman said.
The government has identified 14 communities for the program, including Vernon, Trail, Castlegar, Rossland, and Nelson in B.C.
Others include Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Timmins, and North Bay in Ontario, Altona-Rhineland and Brandon in Manitoba, Moose Jaw, Sask., and Claresholm, Alta.
Councillors expressed surprise that Fort St. John wasn't included.
“I was surprised to see it's called the rural and northern immigration pilot, and then you look at the communities involved and I’m thinking I don’t see a lot of them that are northern or rural,” said Coun. Gord Klassen, who motioned to direct staff to investigate the city’s options to take part in the program.
According to the federal government, rural communities employ more than four million Canadians and account for almost 30% of the national GDP.
Between 2001 and 2016, the number of potential workers in rural communities has decreased by 23% percent, while the number of potential retirees has increased by 40%.
“I’m actually surprised we weren’t contacted to be a part of this pilot program, considering the other ones we have been in, in the past,” said Coun. Trevor Bolin.
“They were surprised we hadn’t been contacted either, so someone was asleep at the wheel,” Ackerman said.
The first workers through the pilot program were expected to arrive in 2020.
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