Thousands of people have applied to enter Nova Scotia, some attracted by an advertising campaign. Then the 3rd wave hit

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Until this year, Graeme Berwick’s biggest online purchases were a few pairs of jeans and a few appliances.

Then the Toronto man bought a house 1,200 kilometers away.

“We hadn’t even seen him except in a few videos,” he said in a Zoom interview from the new home he shares with his partner near the community of Tusket in southwestern Nova Scotia. “It was big steps for us.”

Berwick and his partner are two of the tens of thousands who crossed the Nova Scotia border in early 2021 for work, pleasure or to relocate to the province, some of the trips encouraged at the time by the provincial officials and a “Million Dollar Nova Scotia Job” to attract people to the province.

The number of people requesting entry rose sharply in late March and April, according to figures provided to CBC by the province under access to information laws.

But after several months of trying to attract interprovincial migrants, Nova Scotia suddenly found itself trying to stop them, at least temporarily. The new numbers show the surge came just before Nova Scotia was hit by the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in new provincial border restrictions and other public health measures.

A big change of life

Without the pandemic, Berwick would never have considered moving to Nova Scotia. He previously lived near Toronto Pearson Airport so he could travel often to Europe, the Middle East and Africa for his work helping open new hotels.

Now 55, Berwick hoped to retire at 60. Much of his work dried up during the pandemic, and what was left could be done remotely. Berwick and his partner have decided to sell their Toronto home and move to an area where house prices are lower.

Graeme Berwick moved from Toronto to a lake near Tusket, Nova Scotia, in May. (David Laughlin / CBC)

After doing some research online, they turned east to New Brunswick and then Nova Scotia. A cousin from the UK noticed the province’s “Work from Nova Scotia” campaign, which used the pandemic trend of working from home to encourage people to move to the province, and spoke to Berwick about it.

“He said, ‘You know, they have this migrant program where they can work.’ And I said, ‘This is fantastic.’ At the time, I didn’t even think it was targeting someone like me in Toronto, ”Berwick said.

Berwick completed the move in May and now lives and works from home on a lake near Tusket.

“I now live in a house the same size if not slightly larger than the one we had in Toronto, and we have enough money in the bank now – I’m 55 – we have enough money in the bank now to see. me until I was 70, ”he said.

More than 46,000 applications

Using freedom of information laws, CBC asked the province to release a breakdown of the number of people who have used the “Safe Check In” website to apply to enter the province since the start of the year. 2021 until the day new border restrictions were announced on April 20. .

Only a small group of people did not need to use the online form to apply for admission, including truck drivers, people with compassionate exemptions, people living on a side of the border and work on the other, and essential health workers.

Aside from a high travel week immediately after the Christmas and New Years holidays, the trend showed a steady increase in entries between February and mid-April, with the majority of people responding that they entered for work, for reasons personal, to return home or move.

In total, the province registered 46,607 registration requests.

The increase, which was strongest at the end of March and the beginning of April, concerned public health. During the COVID-19 briefing on April 20, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang referred to a “significant” increase, saying border officials told him of an increase of 400 % of land border crossings with New Brunswick.

NS campaign work

In early May, as the number of COVID-19 cases skyrocketed, the province introduced new rules effectively preventing people from another province from moving to Nova Scotia, although within days they were somewhat relaxed after major criticism.

It was far from a few weeks earlier when the province was actively trying to bring people to Nova Scotia to live and work.

In December, the province launched the “Work from Nova Scotia” campaign, which continued until the end of March. For $ 1.1 million, Tourism Nova Scotia and other crown corporations ran an advertising campaign with tourism-style videos, social media, advertisements and a website on moving to Nova Scotia.

Last week, Statistics Canada released new data that showed a gain of 1,870 interprovincial migrants between January and April, with 4,700 people moving to the province and 2,830 moving. He pushed Nova Scotia to its highest population on record.

The new figures were welcomed by Inclusive Economic Growth Minister Labi Kousoulis, Minister responsible for Tourism Nova Scotia, who said last Thursday that the campaign had gone “very well”.

“It’s the maximum we’ve had since the early 1980s, so it’s a very positive campaign,” he said of interprovincial migration.

“When the third wave hit, we put it on hold, and we’ll have discussions and look at what data we have to get it going again, because Nova Scotia is an attractive place for people to live and work.”

The campaign’s digital ads were viewed 371 million times, the video ads were viewed 38.9 million times, and the website with tips for moving to the province was visited 1.3 million times.

By comparison, the year before the pandemic, Tourism Nova Scotia used travel “influencers” to pitch its marketing campaign to approximately 765 million people.

In February, one of the crown corporations behind the “Work from Nova Scotia” campaign told CBC the goal was to get 15,000 people to Nova Scotia in one year.

Finance Minister Labi Kousoulis will table his first budget later this month. (SRC)

Kousoulis said the province is looking at issues such as accommodation and the availability of doctors, which may be under additional pressure from more people relocating to Nova Scotia. He also noted that along with the increase in population, unemployment has decreased.

It is difficult to determine how many people who entered Nova Scotia this year were directly influenced by the campaign. Laurel Broten, head of crown corporation Nova Scotia Business Inc., said in February the campaign was looking for a way to measure the number of people the ad attracted to the province.

Each year since the start of 2016, according to Statistics Canada, the province has seen more people move other provinces to Nova Scotia than leaving.

In the first three months of 2020, the agency estimated that there was a total gain of 573 people for the province through interprovincial migration, and an estimated total gain of 540 people in the first three months of 2019. .


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