Nova Scotia nears demographic milestone as province experiences record levels of immigration

Jatender Sachdev and his wife Poonam, their daughter Saachi and their son Ronith outside their home in Bedford, Nova Scotia on November 13.Carolina Andrade / The Globe and Mail

Jatender Sachdev doesn’t need to look at immigration statistics to know that Nova Scotia is growing and changing. He just needs to go to Walmart.

Mr Sachdev, who immigrated to Halifax from India in 2016, says the demographic transformation underway in his adopted province is evident when walking through his local mall.

“I used to see someone who looked like me maybe once every 15 times I went to Walmart. Now I see them in all the aisles, I see them at the counters. The change has been dramatic.

In a period of unprecedented growth for Atlantic Canada’s largest province, record levels of immigration have helped push Nova Scotia to the brink of a historic population milestone: the million mark . According to Statistics Canada’s Population Clock, a real-time model that measures births, deaths, internal migration and immigration, the province is within 600 people of that target.

“This is a major psychological step,” said Tom Urbaniak, professor of political science at Cape Breton University. “In some communities in Nova Scotia there will be a buzz around this because the dominant paradigm was one of stagnation and in some cases decline. This represents a change in the narrative.

In 2013, only 1,474 immigrants arrived in Nova Scotia. This year, that number is expected to hover around 7,000. Sachdev says he has seen Halifax transform in just a few short years from a relatively quiet city on the east coast into one more urban center. in addition to a diverse and dynamic population of half a million inhabitants where new condo towers and construction cranes are popping up all the time.

In addition to record levels of immigration, there has been a dramatic increase in interprovincial migration to Nova Scotia, particularly among people leaving Ontario, Quebec and the western provinces during the COVID pandemic. -19. Between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021, nearly 10,000 more people came to Nova Scotia from other provinces or territories than they left Nova Scotia – a dramatic change in the patterns traditional migration patterns of the population in Canada.

This eastward move, driven in part by people born in the province or who attended university there, fuels new optimism about Nova Scotia’s future after six consecutive years of population growth.

“Nova Scotians have always been vagrants. But we also have an incredible autoguiding device. We want these people to come back, ”said Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston. “I think people start to re-evaluate their quality of life, and they start to understand what we have here, and say, ‘This is what I want. “

Population growth is a major component of Mr. Houston’s Conservative government, which wants to double the number of Nova Scotians to two million by 2060. The Premier recognizes that this will not come without challenges, especially with regard to maintaining affordable housing prices; building enough schools; and helping all these newcomers find family physicians – an issue that played a significant role in the August provincial election.

Mr Houston says he is focusing on “planned growth” and has introduced tax breaks for tradespeople under the age of 30, designed to keep them in the province and maintain a skilled workforce capable of. deal with housing shortages. His government has also launched a recruitment program to attract more doctors and nurses.

“We know a lot has to happen to prepare our communities for this growth. When new people come here, they have to have a doctor, they have to have confidence in the education system and they have to be able to afford housing, ”he said. “We’ve never really had a population growth plan before, and we’re trying to learn from those mistakes. “

Premier says it helps that new Federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser is from rural Nova Scotia and understands how important newcomers are to the economic future of small businesses. towns like those scattered throughout his province.

The trend towards remote working and a growing class of creative entrepreneurs in Nova Scotia also bodes well for future growth, Professor Urbaniak said. There is less reliance on large government-sponsored projects of the past that created cycles of boom and bust.

In Halifax, growth is already put pressure on the expanding city. And it forces Nova Scotians to adjust some long-standing attitudes about people who “come from afar” versus “longtime Bluenosers,” said Professor Urbaniak.

“Halifax is now a big city, and it struggles with big city issues like urban sprawl, transit and development costs. We must also eliminate this artificial distinction between people who have moved here recently and those who can claim multigenerational roots in Nova Scotia.

Many of Nova Scotia’s international arrivals, like Mr. Sachdev, go through the Provincial Nominee Program, which allows the government to expedite immigrants to certain areas. This program has grown considerably over the past decade, reaching 1,900 people last year compared to just 23 applicants in 2003.

The Atlantic Federal Immigration Pilot, which helps Atlantic Canadian employers hire foreign skilled workers, has also doubled the number of people it brings to Nova Scotia since its launch in 2018, to reach 1,617 last year.

Mr Sachdev, a father of two and manager of a real estate business busy selling homes to new Canadians, said many immigrants are drawn to Halifax as a safer, more affordable and less hectic alternative to to large cities. That’s what attracted him and his wife five years ago, and now they can’t imagine living anywhere else.

“When we first got there, we thought, okay, we’re going to try it for two or three years. Now we have two children, we have more time with the family and we love living here.

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