Immigration Minister Ramona Jennex hopes to have a new strategy for attracting people to the province ready by spring to help combat a declining and ag­ing population.

Ms. Jennex said Tuesday that the province’s immigration ad­visory panel, which includes business, labour and community leaders, many of whom are im­migrants, is working on recom­mendations.

She said she told the council that she wants to see ideas that are practical because she would like to implement the strategy as soon as possible. Ms. Jennex said the province’s goal is doubling the number of immigrants com­ing to the province. There were 2,600 who landed in Nova Scotia in 2008, although it’s unknown how many stayed here. The 2006 census found 63 per cent of im­migrants who landed here stayed. The province hopes to in­crease that figure to 80 per cent. Ms. Jennex, who spoke during a Halifax Chamber of Commerce luncheon, also told the crowd that the province’s nominee pro­gram is “alive and well, and open for business.”

“There is a mistaken belief by too many people that we closed the nominee program. In fact, we only closed one of the streams.”

She was referring to the pro­gram’s economic category, in which most applicants paid $130,500 in fees for an internship at a Nova Scotia business. The province stopped taking applica­tions for the program in 2006.

Ms. Jennex said there are still five other categories under which immigrants can be fast­tracked into the country. The cat­egories are: skilled workers, workers whose family owns a business here, international graduates, people identified by a community here and non-de­pendant children of other nominees.