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t appears Canada’s youngest and easternmost province will take in over 1,700 immigrants three years earlier than expected.

In 2017 the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador said they would welcome 50 per cent more immigrants per year by 2022. Their figures were based on the 2015 immigration rate when 1,122 permanent residencies were issued— meaning they would need to attract 600 more immigrants to the province in order to meet their target.

“That 1,700 was, I guess, a lofty goal when we started,” Bernard Davis, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour, told CIC News. “We anticipate by the end of this fiscal year we should be surpassing (our goal) quite substantially.”

The number of applications to Newfoundland and Labrador doubled from 2018 to 2019. The increase in applications may be a result of the Province’s five-year immigration strategy in conjunction with the federal government’s Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program (AIPP), as both of these initiatives were launched in 2017.

“We’ve started behind the eight ball, as they say, and now we’re seeing the fruits of our investments,” Davis said.

On the downside, the surplus in applications means that there is a backlog in processing times. Since late May, application processing times have been double the standard, according to a CBC news report.

“We can’t expect individuals to wait in a queue,” Davis said, “We want to maintain our integrity and make sure that people feel supported the whole way through.”

The province employs five specially trained Immigration Program Development Officers, and one is on leave until September.

In order to accommodate the influx of immigrants, the government plans on revising their five-year strategy to address the new challenges. More details on that strategy should be released later this year, but Davis indicated that improving immigrant retention would be in the top priorities.

Statistics Canada reports that about 51 per cent of Newfoundland and Labrador immigrants stayed in the province from 2011 to 2016.

“The retention rate is really where we want to put our focus,” Davis said, “The five-year plan was there to make sure we can accept immigrants, now the third year is really focused on trying to put supports around them, and keep them here—which is really, really important.”

The Province is looking to immigration to help improve its declining population, which currently stands at around 525,000 people.

Without immigrants, the Province projects that its working-age population would decrease 10 per cent by 2025. In the first quarter of 2019 immigration was the only factor contributing to growth, according to Statistics Canada. There were more deaths than births and more interprovincial migration out of the province.

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