Affordable housing, healthcare workforce, wildfires top agenda at premiers meeting

Via provincial release:

The Atlantic Premiers—leaders from Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick—held a virtual meeting today to discuss several pressing issues impacting the region. The main topics included housing affordability, healthcare, labor shortages, and wildfire preparedness.

One of the critical issues discussed was the ongoing wildfire emergency near Churchill Falls in Newfoundland and Labrador. The town of Churchill Falls has been evacuated due to an out-of-control wildfire. Around 750 residents have been relocated to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, approximately 287 kilometers away. The evacuation order was issued due to rapidly worsening conditions, with the fire advancing quickly and posing a significant threat to the community.

Housing affordability was another major focus. The premiers shared various initiatives aimed at addressing the rising costs and availability of housing. In Nova Scotia, for example, the average home price reached $464,661 in May 2024, reflecting a 1.9% increase from the previous year. Despite these efforts, the homeownership rate in Nova Scotia has dropped by 4% from 2011 to 2021 due to rising home prices and living costs.

Healthcare improvements were also a key discussion point. Through the Atlantic Health Accord, the provinces are working together to recruit healthcare workers internationally to address shortages. The Atlantic Physician Registry has been implemented, enabling doctors to work across the region more efficiently. This initiative has already seen 87 physicians join the registry. Additionally, recent federal immigration initiatives have focused on attracting healthcare professionals to Canada, further supporting these regional efforts.

Labor shortages, particularly in healthcare, construction, and service sectors, were discussed as well. The premiers expressed concerns about recent federal budget cuts impacting job training programs. They emphasized the need for better infrastructure and support for critical trade links, such as the Chignecto Isthmus, which connects New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, calling for federal support to protect it from severe weather.

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