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Nova Scotia: Canada’s emerging immigration hub

As part our presenting sponsorship of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Fall Dinner, we are pleased to present a series of thought leadership articles highlighting the dinner’s themes of immigration, recruitment, and labour market solutions.


By Sara Espinal Henao

Nova Scotia is poised for growth. Having exceeded for the first time a population of over 1 million people as of January 2022, the province surpassed the national population growth rate and had the fastest growth among all Canadian provinces between October 2021 and January 2022.[1]

The province’s capital mirrors this upward trend. Since 2015, Halifax has experienced record population growth year after year. Against the expectation that this growth would give in to COVID-19 lockdowns and disruptions, the city closed 2020 with the highest population increase on record at the time. Its population continued to grow by over 2% between July 2020 and July 2021, representing the third-fastest growth rate among all Canadian cities, outpaced only by Kelowna and Oshawa.[2]

This unprecedented growth is owed primarily to business relocation, strong immigration, and net interprovincial migration, a recent trend for the Province. Fourteen new companies expanded or relocated to Halifax during the pandemic, hiring thousands of employees in the process, and the number of start-ups in the city grew by an outstanding 36% in 2019[3], raising, in 2021 alone, a record $307.5 million in equity investment.[4] With the seventh-largest economic recovery across all 41 Canadian census metropolitan areas (CMAs) and the second largest across benchmark cities, the Conference Board of Canada expects Halifax’s GDP to grow at a consistently high rate into 2026.[5] As an emerging start-up center and a top location for businesses, the province has set the groundwork for sustained economic growth for years to come.

A top choice for immigration

This promising growth has been in large part immigration-driven and the result of the province’s ongoing commitment to attracting and retaining global talent. These efforts have rightfully afforded Nova Scotia with international recognition in recent years.

In coordination with the Federal Government, local employers and local associations, Nova Scotia has developed a wealth of provincial immigration programs to attract newcomers. The Provincial Nominee Program boasts nine different immigration pathways, targeting skilled workers, entrepreneurs, international student graduates, physicians, foreign nationals with work experience in the province, and those working in in-demand occupations.

Nova Scotia has also heavily relied on the Atlantic Immigration Program, a creative immigration route launched in 2017 as a pilot in partnership with the federal government that helps employers in Atlantic Canada. This immigration pathway is designed to address labour gaps and hire foreign skilled workers who want to immigrate to the region, as well as international graduates who want to stay in Atlantic Canada after graduation. The Atlantic Immigration Program became a permanent program on January 1, 2022 and is set to remain a key pathway for immigration to the province for the foreseeable future.[6]

In recognition of its promising trajectory as an immigration destination, the Federal Government has committed to increasing the provincial nomination allocation targets for these programs over the next three years. It also increased Nova Scotia’s 2022 allocations for the Provincial Nominee Program and Atlantic Immigration Program by 41%.[7] Raising the quota to 5,430 applicants for the year, up from 3,857 in 2021. This represented 400 new nomination spaces in the Provincial Nominee Program, 17% more than last year, as well as an increase of 1,173 endorsed spaces in the Atlantic Immigration Program, 75% more than last year.[8]

As a result of this aggressive immigration strategy, Nova Scotia welcomed a record number of 9,160 permanent residents to the province in 2021 and already exceeded this number with 9,375 arrivals by August of this year.[9] Skilled workers in essential services such as healthcare and transportation, foreign nationals already living in Canada, and international students in the province have been a top focus. Over the past five years, immigration has not only reduced the province’s loss of young professionals to the rest of the country, but is now a net importer of young and talented individuals who choose to make Nova Scotia their permanent home – a noteworthy benefit given the aging population in the region.

In addition to the accessible immigration pathways for those looking to settle in Nova Scotia, the province also offers an extensive network of services to help newcomers with the settlement process, ensuring they feel welcome and connected as Nova Scotia becomes their permanent home.

Nova Scotia works closely with settlement service providers and other associations to promote inclusive communities and ensure the programs meet the needs of newcomers across the province. The Province’s 2022-2023 Budget assigned an additional $1.4 million for settlement services in communities across Nova Scotia, signifying its commitment to supporting growth through immigration.[10] Organizations such as the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia and Nova Scotia Start provide invaluable guidance and support for families looking for resources as they settle in the province. Newcomers are directed to services they need to improve their language skills, find employment in the province, obtain qualifications to work in their fields, and navigate the process of finding housing, obtaining health care coverage, or accessing child care services and education, among others.

A top choice for businesses

On the heels of this growing interest in the province by global talent and young professionals, world-leading companies and start-ups are increasingly choosing to locate and expand to Nova Scotia.

The province offers a strategic geographic location given its proximity to the United States and Europe; a skilled and educated workforce due to our numerous post-secondary education institutions; competitive business costs; relatively low cost of living; and growing industry sectors, including the information technology, gaming, and digital media sector; financial services; ocean technology; transportation and logistics; and health and life sciences. [11]

The province has established a robust support network designed to help new businesses at varying stages from start-up through to growth and expansion. As of December 1, 2022, Invest Nova Scotia will consolidate Nova Scotia Business Inc. and Innovacorp, and will provide a full range of services that businesses require to scale from the concept stage to export growth.[12] Organizations such as Halifax Partnership help connect businesses with talent, including international talent; navigate export development opportunities; gain business intelligences to inform strategic decisions; and otherwise access guidance, funding, and partnership opportunities. Similarly, the Halifax Innovation District, an initiative created in partnership with Halifax Partnership, provides a platform that connects start-ups, scale-ups, and established companies with assets and opportunities in the city. It is a resource hub with a wealth of entities that provide funding, mentorship, export support, and assistance for development.

Ultimately, Nova Scotia’s drive and focused efforts to attract, integrate, and create opportunities for newcomers and businesses alike have made the province a top choice for foreign nationals seeking to make Canada their home, and for businesses seeking to meet their labour needs. It is the province’s expressed goal to grow its population by 2 million by 2060 using immigration as one of its primary mechanisms.[13]

It will be important to continue to clearly identify and monitor labour market needs and assess settlement needs of immigrants to reach these levels. However, given the range of immigration options available for newcomers, the ongoing partnership between the province and its business sector, and the wide range of services available to help individuals and businesses thrive, we have every reason to believe that this goal is well within reach.

[1]https://novascotia.ca/finance/statistics/archive_news.asp?id=17640&dg=&df=&dto=0&dti=3#:~:text=Nova%20Scotia’s%20population%20exceeded%201,population%20has%20increased%20by%2066%2C315.
[2] https://halifaxpartnership.com/research-strategy/halifax-index-2022/people/#population
[3] https://halifaxpartnership.com/news/article/halifax-startups-2020/#:~:text=The%20number%20of%20startups%20in,launch%20and%20grow%20a%20startup.
[4] https://halifaxpartnership.com/research-strategy/halifax-index-2022/investment/
[5] https://halifaxpartnership.com/research-strategy/halifax-index-2022/investment/
[6] To view our previous Thought Leadership article on the Atlantic Immigration Program becoming a permanent program, click here.
[7]https://novascotia.ca/news/release/?id=20221108002#:~:text=Nova%20Scotia’s%20immigration%20allocation%20for,Program%20and%20Atlantic%20Immigration%20Program
[8] https://novascotia.ca/news/release/?id=20220616001
[9]https://novascotia.ca/news/release/?id=20221108002#:~:text=Nova%20Scotia’s%20immigration%20allocation%20for,Program%20and%20Atlantic%20Immigration%20Program
[10] https://novascotia.ca/budget/
[11] https://halifaxpartnership.com/key-sectors/
[12] https://novascotia.ca/news/release/?id=20221019003
[13] https://novascotia.ca/exec_council/letters-2021/ministerial-mandate-letter-2021-LSI.pdf


This update is intended for general information only. If you have further questions about these programs or are an employer seeking to support your workers, please contact a member of our Immigration Group.

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