By Erika Mathieu
The Town of Taber has extended an offer to the Town of Picture Butte to join the Rural Renewal Stream immigration initiative.
The Rural Renewal Stream is part of the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program to support attracting and retaining newcomers to rural parts of Alberta. The program supports rural communities in their efforts to recruit and retain foreign nationals to the area.
The program is administered by the designated municipality, the Town of Taber, which has recently on-boarded Coaldale and the Town of Picture Butte to join the program on a trial basis to determine whether or not the program would be worth implementing on their own in the future.
The program facilitates retention through an expedited permanent residency process. Picture Butte’s CAO Keith David explained, “this means that you can become a designated community that businesses that have immigrant workers or are looking for immigrant workers can apply to the designated municipality, and say, ‘we would like this person to be a part of this program’.”
The designated municipality determines if the applicant meets the criteria and then would make a recommendation to approve the immigrant worker for the program. This then allows the immigrant worker, or future immigrant worker, the opportunity to apply for permanent residency through the program, allowing them to obtain permanent residency status faster than workers outside of the program. Davis pointed out that many workers on a working visa are only permitted to stay for the time approved through their visa, which is not always desirable for the worker or the employer.
“It works for (the worker); it works for the business in that they can have some security with training people and have them stay, and they are able to attract people that want to come and work in rural Alberta where they can’t find labourers.”
Davis explained the Town of Picture Butte was approached by a business owner requesting the Town look into opting into the program. The Town of Taber has agreed to take on Picture Butte on a trial basis to see what the administrative impact would be.
“Anyone that’s on a temporary working visa where their employer wants them to become a permanent resident, could apply for the program.”
Deputy Mayor de Kok noted, “I think it is a great opportunity for both business and immigrants.”
Speaking in favour of the Town joining the program under Taber, Mayor Moore said, “What I get from this is it wouldn’t necessarily just be for farm workers, but it could also even benefit the Town of Picture Butte itself. When we put out looking for resumes for workers for the Town, and we don’t get many (applicants).”
Councillor Thompson noted, at this stage joining the program would not cost the Town anything, but would allow them to experience how the program functions before making commitments to take on the costs to administer the program once the trial with Taber has ended.
“Experiment with it, we see what the benefits are and then we have a better sense of what costs might be moving forward. If we get the program, we’ll use it then we have to do a cost benefit for the month.”
Council voted in favour of a motion to draft and send a letter to the provincial government explaining their desire to join the designated municipality (Taber) in the program.
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