Beck blames Sask. Party for decline in immigration retention rates

Herald File Photo

Saskatchewan NDP Leader Carla Beck and Immigration and Economy Critic Aleana Young grilled Premier Scott Moe over what they claim are steadily declining Saskatchewan immigration retention rates that are the “worst in the nation” outside of Atlantic Canada, but the province’s Immigration Minister says otherwise.

“Anyone who grew up here knows that Saskatchewan has the potential to be the best place to live and work in Canada,” said Beck. “Yet with Scott Moe at the wheel, new families and immigrant workers like doctors or tradespeople are leaving. The Sask. Party is not giving our newest neighbours the tools they need to put down roots and stay in our great province.”

According to a media release from the Sask. NDP, Saskatchewan has had the worst rates of immigration retention among the provinces since 2015.

The NDP says five-year retention rates have fallen from 78 per cent to 63 per cent under Moe’s leadership, with the rates continuing to decline.

Minister Jeremy Harrison disagreed with Beck’s claims, stating that Saskatchewan’s population is growing at its fastest pace in over 100 years and it’s largely due to immigration. He explained that the province grew by more than 10,000 people in the last quarter of 2022, which is the largest quarterly population increase since Statistics Canada started releasing population estimates in 1971.

“That’s more growth in the last three months than in 16 years under the NDP,” said Harrison. “The NDP have a long history of cherry-picking outdated data with the intention of running down Saskatchewan’s accomplishments for their own narrow partisan purposes.”

Harrison also said that Saskatchewan retains a vast majority of those who immigrate to the province, citing a 64 per cent five-year retention rate of immigrants who arrived between 2016 and 2020.

“This is a stark contrast to the NDP years when the economy shrunk and the population actually declined. It’s also important to remember that there was virtually no international immigration to Saskatchewan during the NDP years,” continued Harrison. “Those people stay because of an economy that has grown tremendously and has provided life changing opportunities for newcomers to make a living and raise a family.”

Beck was joined at the Legislature on Thursday by international students at the University of Regina, who said inadequate access to healthcare and a lack of jobs in their fields of study were significant barriers to staying in Saskatchewan.

“Under Scott Moe, Saskatchewan is dead last in Canada in terms of job growth. That means young people are showing up here and quickly moving to other provinces for work, which in turn hurts our economy even more,” said Young. “It’s a vicious cycle.”

According to the Government of Saskatchewan, the province’s employment rate for very recent immigrants was 74 per cent in 2022. This was above the national average of 71.5 per cent and the fifth highest among all provinces.

The Sask. NDP are calling on the Sask. Party government to commit to creating a plan to attract and retain immigrants, including English as an additional language supports in schools, improving credentialing to create more jobs, access to housing units, increased financial support for organizations supporting immigrants, and expanding start-up incentives to make Saskatchewan competitive with other provinces.