Ottawa, January 23, 2023 — New immigrants to Canada can play a pivotal role in the economic growth and sustained development of smaller Canadian cities, according to new research from The Conference Board of Canada.
“For the past 20 years, Toronto, Vancouver, Montréal, and Calgary have driven economic growth for Canada and immigration has played an important role,” said Pedro Antunes, Chief Economist, The Conference Board of Canada. “The federal government’s Immigration Levels Plan is an opportunity for government to focus on encouraging immigration outside of major centres and utilize established programs that facilitate immigration to smaller centres or provinces and to Northern and rural areas.”
The pandemic was a catalyst in shifting migration patterns in Canada as people moved out of the country’s major cities to the suburbs and beyond. While people were moving within Canada, international migration came to a near-halt in 2020 because of the pandemic; with stops to international travel, and temporary restrictions on embassies and consulates. This combination led to significant slowdowns in population growth in Canada’s major markets. The adoption of technology and remote work accelerated by the pandemic has enabled us to be more connected across our country. Tech adoption has allowed some of Canada’s smaller centres to became leaders, with population growth gaining at least half a percentage point per year, on average, over the past two years.
Many of Canada’s smaller cities have tighter labour markets than those of the top four due to weaker past population growth and more prevalent aging and retirements. This provides an opportunity to help ensure labour market success for new immigrants while contributing to economic growth.
More evenly distributed migration would also help to ease the challenges that major cities face keeping up with rising infrastructure demands in housing and transportation. Marketing the benefits of living in smaller communities, building public awareness about immigration, and ensuring a welcoming environment and appropriate settlement services can all go a long way toward retaining newcomers.
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