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Alberta Government unveiled two new programs to attract immigration in rural Alberta communities

Alberta Government unveiled two new programs to attract immigration in rural Alberta communities



(L to R) Tejinder Bhateja, Hon Tyler Shandro, Alberta Labour & Immigration
Minister, Yash Sharma

Calgary (ATB): Alberta’s United Conservative government is hoping two new programs will
bring more immigrants to rural Alberta communities.
Speaking at the Fairness for Newcomers Summit in downtown Calgary last Wednesday, Premier
Jason Kenney said the programs will encourage skilled workers from abroad to settle outside the
province’s big cities to help fill anticipated labour shortages.
“We’re determined to get more than our share of newcomers,” Kenney said. “Newcomers don’t
take jobs away from Albertans but help to create jobs. They create additional demand, they
create additional wealth and, very typically, they create additional businesses that hire people.”
The Rural Renewal Stream will allow municipalities outside the Calgary and Edmonton
metropolitan areas with fewer than 100,000 people to apply to become a designated community
for immigrants.
The other program, the Rural Entrepreneur Stream, will let immigrants who want to start or buy
a business in rural Alberta visit communities to assess their plans. The UCP had first pitched the
programs as campaign promises before the 2019 provincial election.
The last Wednesday announcement comes in the wake of the 2021 census, which revealed
Alberta has seven of the 10 fastest-shrinking municipalities across Canada, all in far-flung rural
areas, as rural communities face aging populations and a dwindling workforce.
One difficulty for immigrants to rural communities is having their foreign credentials
recognized, said UCP Associate Minister of Immigration and Multiculturalism Muhammad
Yaseen. He said the government is aiming to make it easier for trained professionals to put their
skills to use, which he said could help alleviate the province’s ongoing rural doctor shortage.
“A larger issue is, how do we get international medical graduates who are here, in Calgary or
Edmonton, who are also willing to go to rural Alberta?” Yaseen told Postmedia.
“We’re doing whatever we can to help them, to facilitate them, and not only doctors but
engineers and pharmacists and others. We don’t want anybody left behind just because their
credentials are not recognized.”
Yaseen immigrated to Canada from Pakistan with his family when he was 17, and in 1979 took
his first job in Rimbey, about 65 kilometres northwest of Red Deer. At the time, he was the only
person of colour in the rural community, something he said has shifted in the intervening
decades.
Yaseen did face some discrimination, but said many people welcomed him into the community.
“Rural Alberta culture is a culture of hospitality, a culture of generosity, a culture of sharing and
caring, and I learned a lot when I moved there,” he said.
Immigrant Services Calgary applauded the new initiatives, saying they expect plans to boost
rural immigration to have broader economic benefits for the province.
“The rural immigration streams announced will not only contribute to the local economies of
small towns and centres across Alberta, but they’ll also support and grow the provincial
economy,” said Hyder Hassan, CEO of the local non-profit.
The Opposition NDP criticized the announcement, saying additional community supports need to
be established in communities that will be welcoming immigrants.
“These new streams will not be enough to help communities set newcomers up for success,”
NDP labour critic Christina Gray said in a statement.

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