Let’s be clear about my position at the front end. I believe that labour mobility is a key element of a successful economy. There should be limited barriers to people moving to where the jobs are in Canada. That holds for Moncton as well as Red Deer.
However, I continue to be amazed at the increasing efforts to skim off labour from the Maritimes to work out West. The Conference Board, the Fraser Institute, CD Howe and an increasing number of MPs and Senators are calling for even more of this. Western Canadian governments are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to attract people west and now Irving and others are spending money trying to attract people east.
The reality is that ever since Canada was founded, immigration was the lynchpin that supported increasing labour market requirements. This was profoundly the case in the 1990s when the hot Ontario economy sucked up a record level of immigrants and never once ran a government-funded advertisment in a New Brunswick paper to try and attract workers – even when unemployment was more than 10%.
Now, when unemployment is very low in the Maritimes (relatively), they are spending big bucks to skim of what’s left of the skilled workers?
I have said this before that Alberta has decided they ‘like’ Maritimers more than immigrants in the sense that they integrate better and more quickly (this was the conclusion of a study).
But, I think that Alberta should refocus it’s efforts on immigrants. Displacing more and more Maritimers, in my opinion, is a win-lose proposition and you might argue it’s a lose-lose proposition. Sure many of the people that move to Alberta love it and want to stay forever. But an increasing amount are moving out there purely for economic reasons and not really integrating. What benefit is there to Alberta by building communities of people that don’t really want to be there?
New Brunswick needs to be more serious about economic development and reduce this reality of people facing either $8/hr and EI here or $100k there and making the tough decision.
But Alberta needs to follow Ontario’s lead and be more deliberate about attracting immigrants. Calgary has already done this – it is among the leaders in Canada for attractin immigrants in the past decade or so.
Not all immigrants are al-Qaeda agents looking to penetrate the US from Lethbridge. Further, not all immigrants are hostile to embracing Canadian ‘values’ (although I am still trying to find these). The vast, vast majority of immigrants want a better life and Alberta can offer them that.