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Federal immigration limits undercutting Alberta’s economy, premier says in letter to Trudeau

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says federal immigration limits are undercutting her province’s ability to fill jobs, grow the economy and aid those fleeing violence in war-torn Ukraine.

Smith called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government Wednesday to immediately double to 20,000 the number of allotments to Alberta under the Provincial Nominee Program and add 10,000 on top of that for Ukraine evacuees.

Smith said Ottawa has given Alberta 9,750 spots for 2024 and that falls well short of what is fair and what is needed.

“We want to offer long-term stability as well as certainty to all newcomers who have chosen to settle in Alberta,” Smith told reporters in Edmonton, while releasing a letter she sent to Trudeau calling for more allotments.

“Ottawa is preventing us from being able to do that.

“We’re concerned that this is one more example of the federal government interfering in our provincial jurisdiction.”

Smith said Ottawa needs to allow Alberta to grow its economy and, by extension, boost the national economy, while at the same time doing a humanitarian service for those fleeing the Russian invasion.

“With so many Ukrainian refugees arriving right at a time when we have a labour shortage, [to have] Ottawa limiting our ability to offer permanent residency doesn’t make much sense.”

She said 57,000 Ukrainians have come to Alberta since the Russian invasion and the province will welcome more.

“Alberta’s stability and economic opportunity offer much needed sanctuary from the chaos and danger in Ukraine. And the promise of a better life here among friendly Albertans is the best gift we can offer them during this unimaginable time,” she said.

The federal program nominates people for permanent residence in Alberta if they have skills to fill job shortages or plan to start a business.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada manages the applications for permanent residence, and the federal government also makes final decisions.

The letter

In the letter to Trudeau, Smith said the current 9,750 figure was imposed without notice. She estimates that 90 per cent of Ukrainian refugees in Alberta will seek permanent residency.

Smith said the limit does not make economic sense, given that Alberta has 12 per cent of the population but leads the nation in net employment growth.

“Alberta continues to be the economic engine of Canada,” wrote Smith.

“The decision on Alberta’s 2024 allocations represents a reversal of previous commitments by the federal government, and negatively impacts Alberta’s ability to grow and diversify its economy.”

The federal Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel program ended last summer, but visa holders have until the end of the month to arrive in Canada.

Federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller has indicated there will be close to 300,000 Ukrainians in Canada under the program. Those who want to stay are encouraged to apply through regular immigration streams, though many say they don’t qualify.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said in a statement that allocations are determined on an annual basis by the minister, in consultation with the provinces and territories.

“Provinces regularly request allocation increases, and these requests are one factor that is considered in determining allocations,” said the statement.

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