“There’s a strong consensus that they’re in favour of more immigrants, not less immigrants, notwithstanding the state of the economy,” said McCallum, after a closed-door discussion with participants, including representatives of local businesses and organizations that work with immigrants in specifically in Canada’s Calgary – the capital of the Alberta province.
Roundtable meetings with Minister McCallum have taken place across Canada over the summer months. So far there have been 35 roundtables, including ones in Edmonton and Calgary reported Canadian press last week.
“Canada is an aging country, so we are in need of new blood because Canadians aren’t having enough babies and so the labour force growth depends very much on the entrance of immigrants,” he said.
Even though the greatest need is for immigration to small towns and rural areas, that’s not where migrants typically choose to go, McCallum added.
While some may say that the Canadian job market is under stress providing for citizens and migrants McCallum emphasized that there are still many rural businesses that are looking for workers in highly-skilled or semi-skilled trades – a problem that can be solved through migration.
“There’s a big mismatch between the people that are currently looking for work and positions that are going unfilled at the moment,” Amber Ruddy of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
“We have to find ways to induce immigrants to go where they are most needed."
“If small towns across the country need immigrants, it’s partly up to the individual companies from those areas to develop mechanisms to welcome them and retain them,” McCallum said.
Realizing the benefits of increasing their immigrant populations, many small cities and rural areas across Canada have been making an effort to attract new immigrants to locations outside of major cities. For example, Simcoe County, a region of Southern Ontario, recently debuted an informational website to attract immigrants to the region, translated into 15 different languages.
Alberta has also undertaken a campaign to draw in newcomers to Canada to the province, where rural regions have a wealth of available jobs. The province released a report entitled “Supporting Immigrants and Immigration to Canada,” which reinforces how newcomers to Canada are central to the government’s vision of Alberta. The report indicates that immigrants in all regions of Alberta are able to “fully participate in community life and are valued for their cultural, economic and social contributions.”
If the trend of immigrant settlement in rural areas continues, Canada could see a major demographic change as well as economic growth in small towns.
Canada’s agriculture industry is a major employer. One in eight jobs is tied to the sector, employing some 2.1 million people, a fact routinely touted by politicians and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada officials. One job in agriculture generates four to seven more Canadian jobs.
But it is not only Canadian agriculture that are short staffed.
Rural areas of Canada struggle to attract domestic employees. Jobs in the oil sands in Fort McMurray offer lucrative wages and often don’t require substantial experience. Waterloo’s technology sector loses employees to American-based high-tech giants.
The areas currently identified by the government for employee shortages are occupations in sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics, information and communications technology, health care, and skilled trades.
Most migrants who participated in this respected survey commented that their lifestyles have seen a significant improvement since landing in Canada and they were impressed with the welcoming attitude of locals which encourages Canada's diversity.