HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia is trumpeting a significant jump in immigration thanks to an influx of refugees, but one business advocate says it's still falling short of what's needed.
The province's Immigration Department says preliminary figures for last year to the end of October show 4,835 newcomers -- including about 1,500 refugees -- arrived in Nova Scotia, saying it's the highest number in decades.
The total included an influx of Syrian refugees, along with provincially nominated families and entrepreneurs.
The province says it is also expecting another 2,150 people under the provincial nomination program this year, but it doesn't indicate how many more refugees may arrive.
However, Don Mills, a pollster who has supported a business push to increase immigration in the province, said he sees the figure as an improvement that is still short of what the province needs to replace an aging workforce, and notes the boom in refugees may decrease.
"We're going on in the right direction," he said in an interview. "But we have to ramp it up even quicker."
"There continues to be a sense that we are equally or more diverse than the rest of the country, when in fact that's far from the truth," said Mills, who has polled Atlantic Canadian attitudes on immigration.
The pollster notes that according to the last census only about five per cent of Atlantic Canadians were born in another country, while in the rest of the country it's approximately 22 per cent.
"We are the least diverse population by a mile," he says.
The Ivany Report, an economic blueprint for the province, urged the province to increase immigration due to a declining birth rate and out migration.
It has predicted that within 15 years there will be 100,000 fewer people of working age in the province, and Nova Scotia cannot count on its natural birth rate to replace the workforce.
The report urged the province to attempt to attract up to 7,000 immigrants a year by 2024 and to embrace a greater ethnic and racial diversity in the makeup of the newcomers.