P.E.I.’s reduced immigration targets hurting business, say experts

Two chambers of commerce in province want government to reassess plan

P.E.I.’s reduced immigration targets hurting business, say experts

Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) is reducing its intake of immigrants this year, and it has caused employers to lose workers, according to two employer organizations in the province.

The change in P.E.I.’s immigration policy leaves many who work in retail and the service sector without a chance at permanent residency any time soon, noted the Summerside and Charlottetown chambers of commerce in a CBC report.

“It is deeply troubling that businesses in the sales and services sector, along with representative bodies, were not consulted about these policy changes or notified prior to their implementation,” said Kaley O’Brien, CEO of the Greater Summerside Chamber.

“The abrupt loss of so many employees has created significant disruptions in operations and has left businesses struggling to maintain service levels.”

Is P.E.I. good for immigrants?

In February, P.E.I. announced it would reduce its use of the allotted annual federal immigration nominations under the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) by 25% for 2024 to “relieve further pressures on public services and infrastructure”.

“PEI, like many jurisdictions, is faced with finding the right balance of welcoming new residents to our Island workforce and relieving the pressure population growth has on our increasingly stressed public services and infrastructure system. Whether it’s building more housing or having enough staff in our child care, education or health care system, we know that we need highly trained, skilled workers to grow these systems sustainably,” said Premier Dennis King back then.

“That’s why the temporary changes we are introducing today on reducing our use of immigration nominations by 25% and ensuring the remaining nominations are aligned with key sectors will help balance skilled labour needs and allow sufficient time for infrastructure and services like health care, housing and early learning catch up to what our province needs.” 

The remaining 75% of nominations will be redistributed to align with nine provincial sectors, with a strong emphasis on nominating skilled workers in health care, trades, childcare, and other key industries facing labour shortages, said the provincial government.

Employees departing P.E.I. jobs

However, 24% of total sales and services businesses in P.E.I. reported departures of over 400 employees from their jobs and the province in the weeks following the government’s announcement, according to a survey conducted by Summerside and Charlottetown chambers of commerce in March.

These businesses also predict they will lose an additional 600 employees in the coming months.  

Employees affected had been with their employers for typically 9 to 12 months, with some employees having worked in the position for more than a year, according to the survey.

Previously, a union criticized the P.E.I. government for its dependence on private healthcare workers.

Chambers of commerce call on government for collaboration

Now, the Summerside and Charlottetown chambers of commerce want the provincial government to reassess its immigration plan.

"We urge the government to work collaboratively with business, chambers, and stakeholders to develop solutions and address the challenges posed by population growth without compromising the vitality of our economy and the quality of services provided to residents and visitors alike," said Bianca McGregor, CEO of the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce, in a news release.

The two chambers noted: “It is imperative that any population plan takes into account the needs and concerns of the private sector, ensuring a balanced approach that supports economic growth while maintaining essential public services and growing infrastructure.”

Recently, P.E.I. announced it is offering up to $15,000 in grants through the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) in Agriculture Housing Improvement Program to support agricultural operations in making improvements to accommodations designated for temporary foreign workers.

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