In a Globe and Mail story by Jane Taber, Marco Navarro-Génie says, “More people alone can’t fix the economy, especially when we can’t retain the people that we do bring.” Read the full story on the Globe and Mail website.
The federal government and the four Atlantic premiers are launching a three-year pilot project to dramatically increase immigration, nearly doubling the intake into the region, as part of a new strategy to counter aging populations and slumping economies.
Under this immigration plan – a key plank in the new Atlantic Growth Strategy, which is also aimed at boosting job creation and innovation – the federal government will admit 2,000 immigrants and their families in 2017. This is in addition to what the provinces are allowed under the current provincial nominee program.
If the new program works well, the number of spots could increase over the remaining two years. The number of immigrants will not be divided equally among the four provinces; rather, the program is focused on better matching the skills of immigrants to the requirements of local businesses and employers.
The strategy, however, has its detractors.
Marco Navarro-Génie, president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, a market-oriented think tank in Halifax, says the announcement “favours politics over effective policy.”
“More people alone can’t fix the economy, especially when we can’t retain the people that we do bring and we can’t keep our own children working here,” he said. “So we’re not really addressing the real issue. The real issue is the economic conditions that prompt people to leave.”
Those conditions, he said, include that Atlantic Canada has higher personal and sales taxes than most provinces do. Food, gas, natural gas and electricity are expensive, too.
In addition to the heavy tax burden, he said the provinces are opposed to certain types of economic activity that would bring growth and investment to the region. For example, three of the four provinces, he said, have either legal or regulatory bans on hydraulic fracturing – or fracking. He said there is a “huge contradiction” in the fact that some Atlantic Canadians are leaving the region to work in places that are fracking to extract natural gas.
Mr. Navarro-Genie also criticized the federal government, which played a big part in this announcement, with stalling on approval of the Energy East pipeline that would move oil from western Canada to the refinery in Saint John.
“We keep postponing it and postponing it while our children leave for greener pastures,” he said. “And the federal government … is one of the main culprits of stalling on the pipeline.”
Read the full story on the Globe and Mail website.