Danielle Smith

Alberta appeals to Ottawa for more support on immigration amid continuing population boom

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Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is appealing to Ottawa for more support in helping newcomers to Canada settle in the province.

Smith told reporters Monday that the province continues to see strong population growth with as many as 20 per cent of those new to Canada choosing to live in Alberta.

But, she added that the federal government could do more to help those persons as well as the provincial government defray the costs of settling in a new home.

“If they want us to be able to settle newcomers, then they need to support us with the finances to do that,” she said.

“If they want us to be able to make sure that newcomers are being matched to the jobs that are available in our economies, then they’ve got to give us more latitude to do that.”

Smith’s comments came at the annual Western Premiers’ Conference held this year in Whitehorse where Smith was joined by the premiers of British Columbia, Manitoba, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Saskatchewan and Yukon.

B.C. Premier David Eby said population growth is an issue in his province as well. He pointed to an agreement announced earlier Monday between the federal government and Quebec that gave the province $750 million to help pay for a surge in temporary immigrants.

“They’ve offered us nothing,” Eby said in calling on Ottawa to grant similar funding to other provinces. “To see a single province agreement with Quebec is an underlining of a sense of frustration that I heard around the table.”

“I cannot understand why we cannot get a per capita share at a minimum.”

On Jan. 1, Alberta’s population was more than 4.8 million people, an increase of 202,000, or 4.4 per cent, over the 12 months prior.

International net migration was the biggest driver of Alberta’s growth in the last months of 2023, with more than 31,000 new residents, according to Statistics Canada figures cited by the province.

Smith said her government asked Ottawa to increase its provincial nominee allotment, a program for workers who want to become permanent residents of Canada and have the background to contribute to the economy of a specific province.

The province launched its “Alberta is Calling” campaign in August 2022 and has since been focused on attracting those who can help with what it deems to be a skilled labour shortage, particularly around construction.

Smith said Monday that the program is still producing results, but more federal help is needed.

“We certainly want to keep the doors open in Alberta,” she said. “We want to make sure that we are properly supporting the people coming to our province.

“But, it is a two-way street.”

— with files from The Canadian Press

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