An increase in immigrants preferring to settle outside major metropolitan areas

An increase in immigrants preferring to settle outside major metropolitan areas
The population of Canada has continued to grow thanks to the booming success of immigration. The Government of Canada reported that immigration is the primary driver of population growth. They also predict that immigrants could represent anywhere between 29 per cent to 34 per cent of the population of Canada by 2041. Usually, the major metropolitan areas of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver dominate where newcomers reside. In 2021, those three cities welcomed the most recent immigrants. 29 per cent went to Toronto, 12 per cent to Montreal, and 11 per cent to Vancouver. However, this trend has started to decline as more and more immigrants are looking at rural and small urban communities. For example, recent immigrants moving to Ottawa-Gatineau rose from 3 per cent in 2016 to 4.4 per cent in 2021. It also almost doubled from the cities of Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo from 1 per cent in 2016 to 2 per cent in 2021. 

Why the shift from Metropolitan Areas to Small Urban Areas? 

Metropolitan areas are often the first choice for newcomers. That’s because immigrants prefer to settle in regions where they have existing social networks, economic and employment opportunities and enjoy the general appeal of the area. But recent studies show that around 4.4 per cent of recent immigrants settled in small urban areas. It also stated around 3 per cent of recent immigrants settled in rural areas. Although there are no comprehensive explanations as to why immigrants are geographically redistributing, one pattern noticed is that studies of changes in immigration policy suggest that the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) are partly responsible. Several immigration programs and investments (Like PNP) were designed to help balance the geographical distribution of recent immigrants across the country. These programs encourage settlement in both small and large metropolitan areas.   

How does PNP Affect Immigrant Destinations?

A PNP’s purpose is to allow provinces to create their own immigration programs to address and help regional economic and population needs. For example, if a provincial government from Alberta notices there is a shortage of workers in engineering, it can then create an immigration pathway for foreign workers to fill the said gap. However, that scenario was just made up. Some notable and real PNP strategies that have emerged include British Columbia’s BC Tech Draw, which aims to combat the lack of tech workers in the province. Instead of participating in the bi-weekly draws of Express Entry, BC holds its Tech Draws every week. Another initiative made to attract new immigrants away from metropolitan areas is the Manitoba Morden Immigration Initiative. This has helped open the door for those looking to live and reside in Morden, a small Praire town, by awarding points to people with relatives or friends in the province. Ultimately, these PNP programs – which started in 1996 – have helped bring newcomers to Canada. Over one-third of all economic immigrants admitted from 2016 to 2021 were PNP candidates. 

Newcomers are avoiding metropolitan areas by immigrating to Atlantic Canada.

One popular destination that is growing in numbers is Atlantic Canada. As a refresher, Atlantic Canada consists of four provinces in the east – New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador. Below is the percentage of recent immigrants that have moved to these cities from 2016 to 2021: 
  • 48.4 per cent immigrated to Moncton, New Brunswick.
  • 39.2 per cent immigrated to Fredericton, New Brunswick.
  • 36.2 per cent immigrated to Saint John, New Brunswick.
  • 35.2 per cent immigrated to Halifax, Nova Scotia.
  • 32.5 per cent immigrated to St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. 
The Atlantic Immigration Program (AIP) was launched as an employer-driven program to speed the growth of Atlantic Canada’s economy and to test new approaches to attract and retain skilled immigrants in the region in critical sectors. This program helps temporary foreign workers and international graduates gain permanent residency in one of the four provinces. The same report from the Government of Canada reported that the AIP had brought thousands of new permanent residents. In addition, the report said participating employers make over 9,800 job offers in critical sectors.

Other places to reside as a newcomer outside Major Metropolitan Areas 

The province of Alberta seems to be the least popular amongst newcomers to Canada. The report claims this could be because of the drop in global oil prices in 2014. Another factor is the increased unemployment there. Though Alberta saw a 2.5 per cent decline in immigrants from 2016 to 2021, the 14.5 per cent of immigrants in 2021 was well above the proportion observed in 2006 when only 9 per cent of new immigrants made Alberta their home. The most popular province that is seeing increasing traction in Saskatchewan. According to the report, new immigrants represented almost one-third of the immigrant population in Regina (32.5 per cent) and Saskatoon (31.2 per cent).       

Looking to avoid metropolitan areas when immigrating to Canada

Living in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver has pros and cons; however, the population size and overwhelming crowds can be daunting for newcomers. Many immigrants are switching to more rural and urban settings for various reasons. Contact us if you are looking for a more subtle transition to Canadian life. Click here to fill out our assessment form, and one of our trusted immigration advisors will be happy to help you find the best pathway for you. 
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