When new Canadian immigrants choose Charlottetown, Winnipeg or Bathurst, N.B., it's not just those immigrants and their new communities that benefit. Immigration to cities other than the "big three" centres of Greater Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal is a boost for national unity, and it shows that Canada's increasingly decentralized immigration policy is working.
Statistics Canada data show that New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba and Quebec recently recorded their highest immigration rate in at least 34 years. P.E.I. took in 1,204 immigrants from July to September. 2010, more that it did in all of 2006 or 2007.
Credit goes, in part, to a move that allows provincial governments to "nominate" immigrants who have skills in high demand in those provinces. Numbering barely 1,000 ten years ago, such immigrants now exceed 30,000 annually, accounting for more than one in five of all economic immigrants to Canada.
Politically, immigration to smaller centres and provinces sets up a virtuous dynamic. If the immigrant vote is to be found in a number of widely dispersed ridings, then parties must have a more harmonious and consistent message.
Canadians should not simply pat themselves on the back, though. Recent immigrants are more likely to be poor or underemployed, regardless of their education. Less populous regions remain at risk of eventually losing their immigrants to larger centres. And they will have to do with less after a $53-million end-of-year cut in settlement funding, concentrated in Ontario and B.C.
Indeed, Canada needs to work harder to welcome new immigrants, whose reinvigorating presence is spreading to more communities across the country.