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Keeping Immigrants in Manitoba

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Manitoba are to take 2,000 of the 25,000 Syrian refugees that the federal government plans to bring to Canada. Where they will live? Will there be jobs for them? Will they stay?

Manitoba’s economy rely on immigration. With the ongoing annual outflow of the young, professionals and well-heeled retirees to other provinces, without a constant annual flow of thousands of immigrants to Manitoba our population would plateau and could decline. No population growth would result in a declining economy and less federal transfers.

So, keeping the immigrants here long-term is critically important. So far, the Selinger government provides nothing in the way of solid information on how recent immigrants make out, let alone how many end up moving to other provinces. The paucity of information leaves taxpayers and general society to guess, resulting in uncertainty.

Last year, more Manitobans moved to other provinces than in any other year since 2007. The equivalent of more than the combined populations of Brandon (46,000) and Steinbach (13,500) moved to other provinces over the last decade. Manitoba’s interprovincial out-migration record since 1999 is terrible, only Quebec has a poorer record.

An inflow of over 100,000 immigrants since 1999, recently in excess of 10,000 a year, has, along with the high birth rate of our indigenous population, kept Manitoba’s population growing. Take away either growth factor: house prices fall, the economy stagnates, government’s deficits rise.

Tens of thousands of new tradespersons and professionals need to be trained and retained in the next decade if our economy is to prosper. Manitoba competes with better paying provinces that levy lower taxes while often offering warmer weather and more opportunities. Alberta’s current problems cannot be counted to continue.

Millions of people living in countries suffering with worse conditions than any Canadian has ever had to bear want to come to Canada. Yet, Manitoba is unable to attract more immigrants than we have been receiving, given federal caps, no new large industries and the attractions of other provinces. That said, we can ‘get our share’, helped by families and communities already here from earlier immigration. But, will we hold them? .

Despite government, charities and private immigration consultancies providing useful services to Immigrants, keeping them here will prove more daunting a task than attracting them. In the end, Manitoba needs to be more competitive with the other provinces. Once here and having learned the opportunities open to them across our country, they can join the out-migration.

To be competitive, new and expanding private businesses are needed. Government-supported jobs backed by deficit spending cannot meet the demand long-term. To increase the supply of private sector jobs, Manitoba’s overall tax burden should be lessened and deficits ended. If we are unable to become competitive, eventually a significant proportion of our new immigrants will join the out-migration, we will be poorer for it.

For now, we need much more information on how immigrants make out. We need to know how many of investor immigrants stay here and what their investments have yielded in jobs. World conditions means we can count on immigrants coming, but can we keep them? Manitoba’s future may rest on that question.

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