Saturday, September 22, 2007

Deal might attract more immigrants

Nova Scotia will be able to fill holes in its labour market with skilled immigrants, thanks to a new federal-provincial immigration agreement signed Wednesday.

"Nova Scotia needs immigration and this gives Nova Scotia an advantage over the rest of Atlantic Canada because they'll be able to fast-track newcomers to help them invest here and fill the jobs," Federal Immigration Minister Diane Finley said after she signed the agreement at Pier 21. "We want to, as a federal government, ensure that each province has the opportunity to be a destination of choice for new Canadians."

The Agreement for Canada-Nova Scotia Co-operation on Immigration will see the two levels of government devise marketing strategies to attract skilled workers, temporary foreign workers and international students.

Hossein Mousavi was a student when he immigrated to Nova Scotia from Iran in 1980. Today his company - Cresco Homes - employs more than 200 Nova Scotians. He's seen first-hand the economic benefits immigration can reap. In the last year, he's sold 40 homes in one subdivision to immigrants. "I can see the move of the economy through this nominee program."

Mousavi was going to celebrate with friends after yesterday's announcement, but he was cautiously optimistic about the future of immigration in the province. "You can bring the people here, but you have to find them work. You have to find a better way to keep them."

The agreement will remove the cap that was placed on the provincial nominee program, the number of immigration nominees that the province can identify for fast-tracking. It also includes an agreement that, within a year, they will reach an accord on how to expand the temporary foreign workers program.

Iranian immigrant Flora Riyahi, a Truro financial advisor, says the government needs to invest in programs for newcomers such as English as a second language. "I am actively recruiting more immigrants to come here, I love Nova Scotia," she said. "These people are coming, and then after a year are moving to Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver."

Failed refugee claimants are not eligible under the nominee program because they must have legal status in their own country, said Elizabeth Mills, executive director of the province's office of immigration. Sierra Leone native Mary-Hawa Turay now works with international students at StFX University in Antigonish. She and her husband and three daughters became permanent citizens last year.

"Our life in Nova Scotia has been perfect," she said. "Nova Scotia allows us to dream and we're able to live our dreams," she said.

The Nova Scotia Business Journal: Daily Business Buzz | Deal might attract more immigrants