The provincial government is working through two new initiatives that intend to lend support to rural communities.
Wednesday, premier Jason Kenney announced that the province launched Rural Renewal Stream and the Rural Entrepreneur Stream. Government officials say the programs will encourage skilled and talented professionals and entrepreneurs from around the world to settle in rural communities.
“One of the biggest challenges facing rural communities is population decline, which has caused a succession crisis when a retiring business owner cannot find an interested buyer,” said Premier Jason Kenney.
“We are helping revitalize rural Alberta by removing barriers and setting the building blocks to welcome job-creating immigration to local communities and supporting economic growth throughout the province.”
According to a release, rural communities interested in receiving newcomers must apply to become a designated community. During the first year of this program, a limited number of communities will be selected to participate as a designated community.
To be eligible, communities must meet specific requirements which include a community population of less than 100,000 and be outside Edmonton and Calgary, have an economic development plan, have expressed support from the town/municipality council and a local/regional settlement providing organization and have local employers with permanent, full-time, non-seasonal work available.
The Rural Entrepreneur Stream will attract immigrant entrepreneurs to rural Alberta communities to launch businesses that will create jobs and help stimulate economic recovery and growth.
Entrepreneurs interested in starting or buying a business in rural Alberta will be able to visit the communities so they can see where they will live and operate their business, and for the community to meet the entrepreneur and assess the business idea.
“Rural municipalities provide an excellent opportunity for increased immigration in the form of abundant economic opportunities and community amenities,” said Paul McLauchlin, president of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta.
“Designated rural immigration streams to attract newcomers to areas with lower populations provide a unique opportunity for rural communities and for immigrants. Rural Alberta has always shown, and will continue to show, gracious hospitality for the newcomers and look to them to invigorate our communities.”
The official opposite in Alberta applauded the commitment but warned the damage has largely already been done in many rural communities.
“Undoubtedly the last few years have been very difficult for rural Albertans. The COVID-19 pandemic has left communities isolated, damaged their economies, and the UCP’s war on doctors has left many rural communities’ health care systems short staffed and overwhelmed,” said NDP Labour Critic Christina Gray.
“The government should provide support for these communities to ensure they have programs in place for newcomers, otherwise those relocating may struggle to be successful.
“These new streams will not be enough to help communities set newcomers up for success.”