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Saskatchewan must adopt bold immigration plans

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Saskatchewan must adopt bold immigration strategies: report

Canadian Press - Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2003

Saskatoon - Saskatchewan needs to adopt the bold immigration strategies of 100 years ago if it wants to attract young workers and boost its population, says a report on immigration by a member of the legislative assembly.

But Saskatchewan Party Leader Elwin Hermanson says the New Democratic Party's strategies aren't bold enough.

Between 1896 and 1905, Sir Clifford Sifton developed wide-ranging and aggressive immigration policies as minister of the interior to prime minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

The eventual result was a population exceeding half a million by 1914, and nearly one million in 1935, writes Pat Lorje in a new report called Open Up Saskatchewan, which lists 52 recommendations for building the province's population.

An attitude shift and bold moves like getting an immigration processing centre for the province will attract more new arrivals and help reverse the forecasted population decline, said Ms. Lorje, the legislative secretary for immigration.

At a news conference Tuesday, Ms. Lorje said more people will be leaving the work-force than entering it over the next decade.

“It's estimated that we may be behind in our labour by as many as 100,000 people over the next 10 to 15 years if we do nothing. We just can't sit idly by anymore.

Re-establishing a program to attract immigrant investors, expanding the province's immigrant nomination program and putting more funding towards settlement services, will only work if economic opportunities are developed first, said Mr. Hermanson.

We're losing existing people right now because of lack of opportunity. . . It's going to be difficult to make our province attractive to the people we need whose skills we want, if in fact those opportunities aren't even there for current residents.

Revised Statistics Canada figures show that in 2002 the province's population dipped below one million for the first time in 19 years.

Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan Party would establish a small business tax-free zone and cut taxes within its first term if elected to power, said Mr. Hermanson.

Ms. Lorje did a survey cross-referencing tax levels with migration patterns and says it isn't true that people are leaving because of perceived lower taxes elsewhere, such as Alberta.

There is no relationship to taxes migration, she said, adding that Saskatchewan attracts more than 50 per cent of its new residents from Alberta.

The recommendations in the report, which cost $29,000, are guided by fiscal responsibility, Ms. Lorje said.

Premier Lorne Calvert said he would like to implement several of the recommendations in the next budget, but added it was too soon to say which ones.

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