New Brunswick generally struggles to stand out when pitting itself against Canada's better known provinces. It ranks eighth out of the country’s 10 provinces in terms of population. It also ranks eighth in terms of the size of its territory. Arguably, its two main claims to fame are its place as of one of the country’s top maple syrup producers and its premier Brian Gallant, the youngest in the country. Gallant also has a claim to fame of his own: he is a one-time winner of a Backstreet Boys impersonation contest.

Yet, according to Mr Gallant, what makes New Brunswick stand out is not his age or past, but the fact that in uncertain times – marked by public opinion shifts and rising xenophobia – his province not only remains open to newcomers, but also outdoes others in doing so.

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“We have a proven track record of being open to others,” says Mr Gallant. “During the recent refugee crisis we accepted the most refugees per capita. And this is not a one-off, as we have a long history of multiculturalism and welcoming newcomers to Canada.”

A case in point is Mr Gallant’s mother’s family, who came to Canada in the 1950s from the Netherlands. “They could not speak either English or French. And yet they stayed, because of the economic opportunities and lifestyle that they found here,” he says. According to Mr Gallant, this still works to New Brunswick’s advantage when it comes to attracting foreign companies. 

Programmed for success

New Brunswick benefits from expedited immigration via the Express Entry programme, a country-wide electronic application management system introduced at the beginning of 2015, as well as the New Brunswick Provincial Nominee Program (NBNP), which offers work permits for non-Canadian citizens from selected occupational groups. “Immigration matters are within federal jurisdiction, but thanks to NBNP we are able to fill labour shortages and make sure that companies find the talent they need,” says Mr Gallant.

However, given that the current unemployment rate in New Brunswick, at 9.9%, is higher than the estimated national average of 7.3%, Mr Gallant would like to see also more homegrown talent being employed. That is why in March he pledged to inject $700m over the next three years into the Education and New Economy Fund, aimed at investing in life-long learning, training and skills development, as well as improving affordability of post-secondary education. It is such policies, and not being the country's youngest premier, that Mr Gallant would like to be remembered for.

“I am very hopeful that in the next few years we will have the best educational system around and we will be the success story in terms of economy, but also quality of life,” he says. “It is my personal goal while in the office.”