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Could foreign business help stem rural N.L.’s population crisis?

Bird Cove Mayor Andre Myers. Submitted photo
Bird Cove Mayor Andre Myers. Submitted photo

Speculation whether immigrants starting business could help province’s fortunes

NORTHERN PENINSULA, NL – Immigration may be one answer to rural Newfoundland and Labrador’s pressing population crisis – that is, if government policy will allow immigrants to start up businesses.

Wanda Cuff-Young, vice-president of operations for Work Global Canada, visited St. Anthony Oct. 11 to meet with individuals from different organizations on the Northern Peninsula.

Per their website, Work Global Canada is “a 100% Newfoundland and Labrador owned and operated company [offering] domestic and foreign recruitment and full-service human resource solutions to Canadian employers.”

“We help people come here to study, we help people come here to work, to become residents,” Cuff-Young told the Northern Pen. “We help employers try to find solutions that are going to help them in the long-run.”

Bird Cove Mayor Andre Myers says one big thing he learned from the meeting was that immigrants aren’t allowed to start businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador unless they first attain Canadian citizenship.

“They can be sponsored to work but they can’t be sponsored to come here and start a business,” he said.

Myers believes the province is closing itself to business opportunities from foreign investors that could, in turn, create jobs and help stabilize the declining population of rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

“(Creating jobs comes) not only through our normal industry – forestry, fishery, whatever,” he added. “Yes, it’s going to take some diversification in those existing industries, but also business investment.”

He says many business opportunities on the Northern Peninsula, as identified by the Community Business Development Corporation NORTIP (CBDC NORTIP), aren’t being availed of; noted investment opportunities include backcountry snowmobiling, beekeeping, microbreweries, and video storytelling.

“There are some (business) opportunities that are moving forward with either existing business owners or people from the region, but (others) are not …because there’s no interest,” said Myers.

“We might have an interested investor, say from India or wherever, that’s got money because they’re from a wealthy family, who is willing to come to this region with a million dollars to invest into a new accommodation business or a new adventure tourism business.”

Wealthy foreign enterprises may not require a loan to start up, unlike many local businesses, he points out.

That would mean money immediately invested into the province.

But right now, immigrants can’t invest unless they go through the process of attaining Canadian citizenship first.

Learn from example

During the St. Anthony meeting, Cuff-Young contrasted Newfoundland and Labrador to Nova Scotia, where support for foreign business has created over $12 million in investment.

She believes Newfoundland and Labrador can learn from their example, as well as other Atlantic provinces.

“None of that is coming to Newfoundland because the policies are still not in place, “ Myers commented.

According to Cuff-Young, immigrants also bring new ideas and find opportunities for business ventures that locals may not see.

“When you look at the fishery and all the things we throw away in the fish, we gut fish and throw things away. Other cultures, they take all that and make something out of it. We dispose shells of crab and lobster. They take that and make medicines and things out of it.”

For Cuff-Young, these are just a few examples of how foreign entrepreneurs can make use of different things in new ways and perhaps find new areas of business and employment.

Cuff-Young also highlighted agriculture as an area where immigrants could diversify the economy.

She says the province imports 92 per cent of its agriculture produce. She believes there can be growth in agriculture in the province, with immigrant help, and a higher percentage of the produce can therefore be provided internally.

For Cuff-Young, given the population crisis Newfoundland and Labrador is facing, it needs to start taking these kinds of measures.

“We need 45,000 people over the next few years to come here and live,” she said. “We have to get aggressive in how we’re going to look for those 45,000 people.”

stephen.roberts@northernpen.ca

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