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HALIFAX — Mayors in Atlantic Canada will meet in Halifax to discuss new ways to attract immigrants to the region and keep them there.
The Atlantic Immigration Conference, scheduled to start Sunday evening and end Tuesday, will bring together political leaders, immigration experts and immigrants.
The conference, organized by the Atlantic Mayors’ Congress, was created to discuss why provinces such as Nova Scotia attract only two per cent of new immigrants to the country and why fewer than half of those immigrants stay.
“We want to look at what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong and what we can do better to attract and retain immigrants for the long term,” Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly, chair of the Atlantic Mayors’ Congress, said Saturday.
Last month, Nova Scotia introduced a provincial Office of Immigration and included $2.6 million in yearly funding for the department in the latest provincial budget.
The announcement came as the province’s death rate was expected to exceed its birth rate for the first time.
Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick also all have provincial nominee programs, which allow provinces to nominate immigration candidates to meet their economic and industrial needs.
But Kelly said existing programs aren’t attracting enough immigrants.
“It could be that we don’t profile ourselves enough to attract them here in the first place,” Kelly said.
Kelly pointed to cities such as Winnipeg, which he said was the first city to work with both provincial and federal governments to develop an immigration strategy.
Winnipeg also works with the federal government to sponsor and accelerate the placement of refugees in the city.
Former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray will speak at the conference.
“It helped turn things around for them and we hope to learn from that process to see if we could even refine it to make it more accommodating to the needs of Atlantic Canada,” said Kelly.
Municipal leaders will leave the conference with a list of suggestions to make their communities more attractive to immigrants.
Other speakers include former deputy prime minister Sheila Copps and Halifax immigration lawyer Lee Cohen.
(Posted on May 17, 2005)