As aspiring candidates work hard to win support in their ridings ahead of Monday’s provincial election, the New Brunswick Multicultural Council (NBMC) urges all political parties to agree on one priority for the province: population growth and retention must be top of the list in NB’s recovery plans.
“We are still facing the same demographic and labour market challenges in New Brunswick, but the impacts of Covid-19 have hurt thousands of New Brunswickers, especially small business owners, and gravely slowed down immigration efforts. Newcomers have also been disproportionately impacted by the global pandemic”, said Moncef Lakouas, President of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council.
According to the Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey, there were approximately 600 unemployed immigrants (permanent residents) in New Brunswick in June, 2019, and that number increased to 3000 in June, 2020. “We need to retain population growth and facilitate stable employment opportunities for newcomers as a central pillar to the province’s economic recovery plan.”
NBMC reached out to all major political parties to get their stance on population growth and newcomer supports, including how they plan to address systemic racism and enhance the representation and inclusion of diverse voices in decision-making processes. Parties either submitted responses directly, or were collected from public appearances and press releases.
Here is a summary of their responses, in their own words:
- The top pillar of the New Brunswick Liberal Association 2020 Election platform is to “Grow the Population and the Economy”. The party platform is committed to the immediate creation of a Covid19 Economic Recovery Task Force to put in place short, medium and long-term action plans. Immigration and retention will be key elements of that plan.
- A Liberal government will ensure that the initiatives contained in the Population Growth Strategy are properly funded, as enhanced settlement services are the key to retention. The Liberal Party recognizes the benefits of multi-year funding to provide stability and predictability for program planning.
- The Liberal Party will focus on federal provincial co-operation to seek out greater flexibility and autonomy over immigration. They will commit to review pathways to permanent residency for those with temporary permits.
- The party will continue to work with the federal government, community organizations and our post-secondary institutions to look at new support initiatives for international students
- A Liberal government will move forward with an Inquiry into systemic racism in the NB policing and criminal justice systems. They will welcome the recommendations and move forward with an implementation plan.
- A new Liberal government will ensure inclusion and diversity within the public service is promoted and realized.
- The Green Party would meet with the NB Multicultural Council and other and allied organizations to understand the needs of the multicultural community and newcomers that must be addressed as part of our economic recovery plan as well as the objectives of the 2019-2024 Population Growth Strategy.
- a Green government would negotiate with the federal government to obtain some authority over immigration to respond to the needs of New Brunswick, and adopt a management structure that respects the principle of duality in matters of francophone immigration. The party would also like to make it easier for immigrants to obtain permanent residency, whether they came here for school or work.
- The Green Party would support moving to multi-year funding agreements to provide stability.
- On the issue of systemic racism, the Green Party would immediately order an inquiry into systemic racism in New Brunswick’s police and justice system. They also support Black Lives Matter NB’s calls to action, including:
- Include in school curricula the study of the history of slavery, segregation, and systemic oppression in Canada and in New Brunswick.
- Order a study of the personal, social, and economic impact of racism in New Brunswick, and develop a strategic anti-racism plan to repair this damage and prevent racism going forward.
- The party would review practices for appointments to government boards, commissions, committees, and leadership positions in the public service to determine what actions can be taken to ensure a greater diversity of New Brunswickers are represented within government. This has been a goal of the party’s candidate recruitment process and they would bring the same commitment to the make-up of boards, commissions and committees.
- As Premier, Mr. Blaine Higgs stressed that population growth is critical to New Brunswick’s economy, economic recovery and future prosperity. The population growth target was increased by Premier Higgs in during the State of the Province Address in January 2020 to 10 000 newcomers a year by 2027. The party also increased provincial nominations by 30%. In pure numbers, that’s another 545 nominees who can come to our province and bring their families.
- The PC government also created business navigators through Opportunities New Brunswick to help newcomers cut through red tape when they want to invest and open a business and have opened an office in India to attract international talent and private investment. The province is on track to open an office in Europe as well.
- In the Spring budget, the PC government committed $900 000 to customizing training programs for newcomers with language barriers and we created a lot more flexibility around our Working NB offices and wage subsidy programs, a model that has not been updated since the 70s.
- The Progress-Conservative Party sees post-secondary institutions and professional associations as key partners as well with the next population growth pillar for them to focus on to support international students who want to stay and work in NB. The PC government is also working with professional associations so that international professionals have an easier transition in meeting the credentials required to participate in the NB workforce.
- Francophone immigration is also a focus of the party within the population growth strategy. Their action plan targets a 2% annual increase in French-speaking immigrants to the provincial immigration programs to reach a total of 33% by 2024. The party allocated $2 million in their spring budget toward attracting francophone new Brunswickers and francophone immigrant entrepreneurs.
- Premier Higgs expressed that retention is critical for province’s ability to fill 120 000 jobs. Through their population growth strategy they plan to hit a 1-year retention rate of 85%, and a 5-year target of 75%.
- In regards to Temporary Foreign Workers, Premier Higgs mentioned that he wants to see more TFWs make NB their home. That means insuring they have year-round opportunities and it also means, working with the federal government to pilot a new model.
People’s Alliance Party
- In regards to immigration, Mr. Austin is committed to help Temporary Foreign Workers that want to come and stay in New Brunswick to do so. He has a plan to help them come (note: plan details not shared).
New Democratic Party
- No responses were received.
“NBMC is pleased to see all parties continue to prioritize population growth and will continue to work with all elected officials to ease pathways to employment and improve representation, inclusion and retention of newcomers, immigrants and racialized people in New Brunswick”, added Mr. Lakouas.