11/14/2012 02:22 EST | Updated 01/14/2013 05:12 EST

Ottawa increases cap on number of skilled immigrants Nova Scotia can attract

HALIFAX - The cap on the number of immigrants Nova Scotia can recruit through its nominee program has been increased for next year, a move Premier Darrell Dexter welcomed after months of wrangling with Ottawa over the issue.

The cap has been raised to 700 from 500. It comes after Dexter made several overtures to the federal government about the need to have more skilled immigrants come to his province.

"We've been arguing to them, 'You give them to us and we'll use them,'" said Dexter.

"I think this is a little bit of put up or shut up, so we are going to use these."

Dexter said the nominee program, which targets people with needed business skills, represents about one-third of all immigrants to Nova Scotia. He said the province would continue to lobby the federal government to increase the number of immigrants admitted through the program.

He said the province is capable of handling even more skilled immigrants, though he wouldn't say how much.

In an immigration strategy released last year, the province set a goal of issuing 1,500 certificates under its nominee program for skilled workers by 2020. As part of that strategy, the government also hopes to attract 7,200 immigrants overall by that same time — double the 2011 goal of 3,600.