Attracting immigrants to the north
Canada's federal immigration minister, Ahmed Hussen was in Sudbury Thursday to talk about encouraging more newcomers to Canada to locate in rural and northern communities.
Northern MP's have long been calling for this for years to fill gaps in a shrinking workforce, and following the success of a similar program in Atlantic Canada, it’s now being tried nationally.
It’s often said the big cities get the biggest piece of the pie, leaving the rest to fight over the crumbs.
"We have small communities working against each other. Northern Ontario or northeastern Ontario is a region that can work together and attract people." said Nipissing-Timiskaming MP Anthony Rota.
But with an aging workforce and dwindling population, northern MPs say the region is at risk of losing its economic edge.
"We have jobs. We need workers in northern Ontario to develop things, to develop the businesses, and to get our economy going again." said Rota.
Wooing new Canadians to the region isn’t easy, with the big cities get the lion’s share, but Canada's immigration minister may have the solution.
"A new federal immigration pilot program to support the economic development needs of rural and northern communities in Canada." said Hussen.
Eligible communities can now apply to be the guinea pigs, tapping into new federal support to attract and retain skilled immigrants, who might otherwise pass them by.
"Talented people don't have to choose Canada or Australia or whatever. They can go anywhere. They're highly mobile. But they'll go to the country that will welcome them, embrace them." said Hussen.
It’s music to the ears of the northern MPs who’ve spent months lobbying in the halls of Parliament Hill.
However, there's a danger that not everyone will want to listen.
It’s an election year, after all.
And while Ottawa continues to push progressive immigration and refugee policies that have been a hallmark of the Trudeau government, it’s getting harder to ignore a growing resistance that seems to be bubbling up to the surface.
White nationalism is mobilizing in some of those very communities who stand to benefit from the new program and there are growing anti-immigration sentiments across Canada.
"I wouldn't call them nationalists. I would call them by what they are, people who are spreading intolerance and fear and division. We know that diversity is our strength in Canada, and we know that immigration continues to make a difference in our country every single day." said Hussen.
And that is something the northern MP's are counting on in their communities.