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New Brunswick to become new home for Dutch truckers

FLORENCEVILLE, N.B. -- Immigration in New Brunswick is low, but the bureaucrats in pursuit of increasing the number...

FLORENCEVILLE, N.B. — Immigration in New Brunswick is low, but the bureaucrats in pursuit of increasing the numbers are getting help from a job consultant originally from the Netherlands.

Annette Sluiter, a Dutch-born recent immigrant who lives on a potato farm near Florenceville, N.B., is turning to her original profession as an employment consultant to bring Europeans to New Brunswick to fill job vacancies due to labor shortages.

Through her recently opened company, Eastern Canada Immigration and Job Consultants Inc., she is expecting her first client to arrive in the province next week, another 32 to follow later, while more than 200 Europeans are currently considering the move.

On her list are medical professionals, teachers and computer technicians, but her largest clientele at the start is truck drivers.

Holland, a country half the size of New Brunswick, is home to 17 million people, she says, and truck drivers spend most of their time in traffic. When they do get out on the highway, they can only drive 80 kilometres an hour.

“If you are a truck driver there, you are stuck in traffic three, four hours a day. So there is no fun at all. Just the distances here and the people are nice here and it is just so relaxed. It is a big difference,” she says.

She has established a relationship with McConnel Transport, a Woodstock-based fleet of 40 trucks.

General manager, Leeann McConnel, complained that truck driving is not considered a profession for Immigration Canada, so governments are not helping fill the 40,000 truck driver positions, she says, are needed across Canada.

“I can’t expand because I have no drivers,” McConnel says.

She is very supportive of Sluiter and her effort to attract Dutch immigrants.

Her current proposal is to help the Europeans acquire one- to three-year temporary work permits and then they can either apply for more permanent status using the provincial nominee program or directly through the federal government. Or, she says, they may just return to Europe with the experience.

“Some of the truck drivers will come for one or two years, and they will go back after that. It is a good experience and that is it. But I think most of the families, the teachers and the medical staff, they will stay.”

Changing demographics are forcing governments to address New Brunswick’s lack of immigrants. In Canada, most immigrants head to the big cities and avoid rural areas, and as a result New Brunswick gets less than 1,000 newcomers a year out of the 225,000 who arrive in Canada. While successive governments have addressed the problem, none have found a solution.

Tobique-Mactaquac Liberal MP Andy Savoy, who has frequently complained about labor shortages in his riding, met Sluiter six months ago and also supports her efforts.

“This is a big city feature. There are many immigration consultants in the big cities. So it is interesting to see it in a rural region,” says Savoy.

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