A Saint John councillor says he wasn’t fully able celebrate New Brunswick’s first-ever Family Day, as his wife lives a world away and hasn’t been permitted to come to Canada.

Sean Casey has been trying to get his wife Michelle, who lives in the Philippines, to come to Canada for almost a year.

"It's been pretty rough,” the Ward 2 councillor says. “Sadly I'm still in the paperwork phase because everything has been so slow.”

The pair met in Singapore seven years ago. Casey says her application for a six-month tourist visa was rejected.

Hoping to speed up the process, they married in the Philippines in May.

"I thought it was easier to just to get married and do the immigration papers instead of trying again for the tourist visa,” says Casey.

As Casey fights his own battle, Saint John has launched a plan to attract more immigrants in hopes of reversing its stubborn population decline.

It's part of a growth strategy staff unveiled to council earlier this month.

"We need results. The decline in population for the city of Saint John between 2012-2016 of people will cost the city dearly; over $15 million in revenue," Mayor Don Darling says.

Darling says the new strategy would collaborate with local agencies as well as the provincial and federal governments to speed up the immigration process and prevent barriers like Coun. Casey is experiencing.

“That's a lengthy process. We should do everything we can possible to help with that, to streamline the process," says Darling.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mary Cranston.