Great news announced out of Sault Ste. Marie on Friday June 14th by Federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, regarding the communities selected for the “Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot program”.  This was followed by the announcement in North Bay by MP Anthony Rota, confirming the selection of our community and communities surrounding our City.  It was welcome news not only to our district, but also the confirmation that our four Northern Ontario neighbors, Sudbury, Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay will also have the pilot program.

The selection of five Northern Ontario communities from the eleven programs announced is good news for the North, as population numbers in these regions, for the most part, have seen steady declines or little growth.  With declining birth rates and the shrinking population base, attraction and settlement of new Canadians to Northern Ontario has been touted as one initiative to reverse those trends.  When we look back over the past century, Northern Ontario was settled by many immigrant families who came here and built lives for themselves and their families.  Most of us are descendants of immigrants who came to Canada, for a better life and opportunities for their children.

This program when implemented will seek out qualified immigrants for jobs which employers are unable to attract or hire from the existing labour force.  We continue to see many requests from employers that have opportunities to grow and expand but have not been able to attract qualified workers to skilled positions needed for that growth.  On the east coast where the program was introduced in 2016, they have been successful in retaining 90% of families moving into their communities versus less than 60% without the supports of this program.

The Chamber is extremely pleased to be selected as the lead in this project however this is a joint initiative with many community partners including the City of North Bay (Economic Development Department),  Labour Market Group, Yes Employment Services, North Bay & District Multicultural Centre, North Bay Local Immigration Partnership , Canadore College and Nipissing University, and many others as well.  We look forward to working with all partners to achieve economic growth and prosperity for the North, through immigration and linking those needs with the requirements of employers.

The Chamber Board and staff are extremely proud and thankful that we had Patti Carr, Vice President of Policy and Communications at the Chamber, who did a tremendous job of pulling this project together under very tight timelines.  Patti is a tireless individual who worked with the partners listed above and many others including employers/Chamber members to ensure all bases were covered and all questions answered.  Congratulations to the entire group and especially to Patti, for pulling it all together!  Together we can accomplish so much more.

Peter Chirico is the President & CEO of the North Bay & District Chamber of Commerce.