Hawkins announces new money to make communities more welcoming

Published: Apr 24 at 4:52 p.m

Advanced Education, Skills and Labour Minister Al Hawkins announces new funding for municipalities to develop plans to become more welcoming to newcomers at the Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador central regional meeting in Grand Falls-Windsor April 20. – Sarah Ladik

Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador host regional meeting in Grand-Falls-Windsor

GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, NL – There is a new website for municipalities looking to make themselves more attractive to newcomers, as well as new money to go along with it.

“One of the areas we have concern, is that attracting immigrants is one thing, and retaining immigrants is a second,” said Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour Al Hawkins April 20 at a Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) regional meeting. “We have to make sure that part of what we’re doing is to make sure our communities have the resources that are necessary to welcome immigrants into the community.”

The website, welcomenl.ca, is meant to be a toolkit to help guide municipal governments as they make plans to increase immigration to the province. The $567,000 in new funding will be distributed through MNL to support those plans.

The focus in 2018-2019 is on Labrador City, Happy Valley Goose Bay, and Corner Brook, with emphasis on Grand Falls-Windsor and Gander coming in 2019-2020.

“Over the next few years, Memorial University has just done the study, by 2025, we’ll be losing 10 per cent of our people,” MNL president Tony Keats told the Advertiser. “And many of them will be working age, so we need someone to pick up that demand.”

The website is meant to be an evolving thing, with more information and resources added regularly. As part of The Way Forward, the current administration’s overarching plan, the province aims to increase immigration to 1,700 per year by 2022. As of April 20, it includes a list of key terms for immigration, as well as brief explanations of the different paths people can take to come to Canada, including Newfoundland and Labrador.

Hawkins made it clear in his address that the vast majority of immigrants to the province arrive already employed, contrary to the popular belief that their presence overwhelms an already difficult labour market. Keats echoed this sentiment.

“Usually when people come they create business, so it’s good that way,” he said.

MNL meeting

The minister’s announcement took place on the first day of a three-day regional MNL meeting, one of four to be held every spring.

Keats said the regional meetings, which typically draw between 60 and 80 participants, are useful for education and discussing issues in a more limited context, as opposed to MNL’s AGM with hundreds of participants. The agenda included presentations on building asset management, cannabis distribution models, and infrastructure funding, as well as a workshop on the Welcoming Communities Initiative.