Local stakeholders were recently offered another chance to rally for the permanent implementation of the federal government's Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP).
During a visit to Winnipeg at the start of August, Marie-France Lalonde, Parliamentary Secretary to the federal minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, made a side trip to Altona. 

"We were very lucky to have the opportunity to meet with her and talk about the successes of the program," explained Stephanie Harris, Economic Development Officer for SEED, the local group that runs the R-NIP program in the Town of Altona and Municipality of Rhineland. 

Local participants quickly gathered for an in-person roundtable discussion with Lalonde where she heard all about its sucesses and its challenges. 

"She wanted to know what it's working so well for us," said Harris. "I think we got the message to her, very clearly, that it is a collaborative approach. We are working with local municipal governments, businesses, settlement service agencies as well as economic development agencies, and that's who we brought around the table for that discussion."

Overall, Harris says she is feeling quite positive following the session.

"It was really great to see her being so involved in the process. She had staff with her, but she herself was also taking notes." 

After the fact, Harris added, Lalonde also took time to review what she gleaned from the discussions.

Additionally, stakeholders have forwarded letters of support for the program to Lalonde's office. These letters had previously been sent to former Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship minister, Sean Fraser. 

"Even just having a direct contact to her office is fantastic for us," added Harris. 

In August 2022, the federal government announced it was extending RNIP until February 2024. Harris noted, SEED's lobby efforts to make it permanent will continue, even after this latest roundtable. She explained, a recent survey of local RNIP participants yielded 14 responses and represented an anticipated 749 open positions within the next three years. 

"We want our businesses to continue to stay viable and we also want them to continue to grow. Also, with attracting new business to the area, they also need to have access to a labour force."

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