P.E.I. Slashes Immigration Target To Slow Population Growth

In 2023, Prince Edward Island’s population growth rate stood at 3.9%, the highest of any province in Canada. The tiny island of just 5,660 square kilometres added a startling 6,599 residents, bringing the total number to 173,787. The population is projected to rise dramatically, reaching the 200,000 mark by 2030.

From 2022-2023, the Island had slightly more deaths than births – hence no natural population increase. Interprovincial migration was just 1,587. The bulk of the growth came from international migration: foreign workers and international students (2,098) and immigrants (3,116).

The result has been a strain on housing, healthcare, and infrastructure. P.E.I. now has the tightest rental market in Canada. In December, interim Green Party leader Karla Bernard urged Premier Dennis King to put the brakes on his aggressive provincial immigration targets: “We’re inviting people into our province when there’s no housing for people who are here or people who are coming in…we need to just kind of slow those down until we can get things caught up”.

At first, King’s government insisted that the Island needs more workers from overseas to offset an ageing population. In an interview with the CBC, King himself seemed unconcerned with the problems that immigration-driven population growth has brought to his province: “People want to be here. They’re choosing P.E.I. for a reason…I guess if there’s problems to have, those are the good problems, or the good challenges to have”. He appears to share the same commitment to population growth as Atlantic Canada Premier Tim Houston, who is trying to use immigration to double Nova Scotia’s population by 2060.

But in a new population growth plan released last Thursday, King’s government appears to have relented on its commitment to large-scale immigration, cutting its immigration “nominations” (economic immigrants selected from a federal pool) by 25% for 2024. In an about-face, Premier King explained this decision as a way of slowing population growth to relieve the pressure on housing and healthcare: “We have challenges in housing. We have challenges in the delivery of health care. And until we can find a way to expand those services and expand those programs, we need to do the best we can to manage the people that come into our province.”

Will this be enough, or will Islanders demand a more dramatic reduction in the flow of newcomers to tiny P.E.I. – which is already the most densely populated province in Canada?

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