The three Maritime premiers said Monday their provinces badly need more immigrants, even as a former New Brunswick premier proposed his own solution: require newcomers to live in the region.
“The imperative to have an immigration profile that is similar to the rest of the country in all aspects is mission critical,” Prince Edward Island Premier Wade MacLauchlan said Monday.
He was reacting to an op-ed piece written by Frank McKenna, where the former New Brunswick premier says boosting Atlantic Canada’s population through immigration is necessary to combat aging and declining populations.
New Brunswick saw deaths outpace births for the first time in 2014, and McKenna said the rest of the country needs to take note because an aging population costs more, and the declining population base will result in less equalization, fewer transfers for health and education, and less money raised from income tax.
McKenna said Atlantic Canada only gets about 2.5 per cent of immigrants to Canada.
“Immigrants go where immigrants are. They are all going to Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. We have to break that mold somehow and it’s going to take a stiff dose of medicine to do that,” McKenna, who is now deputy chairman of the Toronto-Dominion Bank, said in an interview.
He said the federal government should create a special program for Atlantic Canada that would require immigrants to live three to five years in the region before they are granted citizenship.
“During that time it’s up to us as citizens, communities and provinces to keep them here,” McKenna said.
He said forcing a Canadian citizen to live in a particular province would violate their mobility rights under the Constitution, but he said Constitutional scholars believe it would be a reasonable requirement for people seeking citizenship.