Winkler city council has given its support to a immigration strategy put forward this week by Star 7 International. The initiative is aimed at bringing over new families with no relatives or friends already living in Manitoba, and would see an immigration committee set up by the Winkler-Stanley Economic Development Corporation that would act as a screening body for applications.

Mayor Martin Harder says past immigration has been an economic boom for the city, but the previous approach didn't allow the community to prepare for the number of families arriving.

It's been suggested that 100 to 150 new families per year be brought in under this new initiative. Harder is comfortable with that figure reflecting how just a couple of years ago more than 400 families arrived in a single year. Harder says up to 150 families per year wouldn't have the same sort of impact now on infrastructure and programming as it did when the push for immigration was first made in the mid 1990's.

Immigration numbers have dropped off considerably over the last two years, with Star 7 International stating factors such as slow application processing times, the global recession, and other factors leading to the decline. 445 families from Star 7 International arrived in Manitoba in 2008, this year to date only 87 have come to our province. Harder says there are signs around the community supporting those numbers including a reduction in building permits and the number of houses for sale.

Harder tells us the idea still needs approval from the province before it can be implemented.