The COVID-19 virus may bring an end to Nova Scotia’s streak of record-breaking immigration increases.
“The landings for the month of April are low, very low, relative to what we would have expected prior to COVID,” Immigration Minister Lena Diab said Thursday.
“The January, February landings, prior to COVID were the highest, historically, we’ve ever had and we were on track, had COVID not hit, to exceed the 2019 number, which was fantastic.”
According to the Office of Immigration, 45 people arrived in Nova Scotia in April, a fraction of the 543 immigrants who arrived in April 2019 and the 547 who came that month the year before.
March saw a drop in arrivals, but it was less dramatic than the April decrease. In March, 330 people arrived in Nova Scotia compared to 513 that month the year before and 508 in March 2018.
The office hasn’t completed its tally for May and June.
The low numbers reflect travel restrictions worldwide as well as a desire among many to stay put.
Despite how few people are travelling to Nova Scotia, Diab said her office is continuing to process a large number of files.
“We are on track to hit our numbers and, in fact, we received increases in our allocations both in the provincial nominee stream that we have and in the Atlantic immigration pilot numbers,” Diab said.
“Many people are continuing to apply. Of course, we are prioritizing essential workers.”
Diab said the province has nominated two doctors just last month, although when they are able to come remains unclear.
Although immigration is a federal responsibility, the Provincial Nominee Program allows provinces to pre-approve, or nominate, immigrants with skills needed in that province to fast-track their acceptance into Canada.
When Nova Scotia signed onto the program in 2002, the five-year agreement restricted the program to 200 nominees a year.
Since its creation, successive governments have lobbied for a greater number of nominees with varying success. Ottawa recently increased that number to 1,850 for 2019.
Last year, Nova Scotia welcomed more than 7,500 immigrants overall. In 2018, close to 6,000 came to the province from outside Canada to start new lives.
Diab remained hopeful that Nova Scotia would continue to see a greater number of people coming to the province from outside Canada, despite the drop in landings for March and April and the anticipated decreases in May and June.
“We’ll have to wait and see what happens in the second half of 2020,” she said.