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What the changes to Alberta’s healthcare delivery system mean for newcomers across the province

What the changes to Alberta’s healthcare delivery system mean for newcomers across the province

Earlier this month, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith announced that the existing Alberta Health Services (AHS) system in the province will be divided into four separate entities in an effort to “improve access to care.”

In a press conference at the beginning of November, Smith reiterated that this plan would organize Alberta’s healthcare delivery system by function, aiming to “reduce emergency room and surgery wait times, improve access to innovative treatments and recruit more staff.”

More: Alberta’s plan for a new healthcare delivery system

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Specifically, the decentralization of healthcare in the province will see organizations “deliver health services in primary care, acute care, continuing care and mental health/addiction care.”

What does this mean for newcomers?

Permanent resident (PR) landing data from 2022 shows that nearly 50,000 new PRs (49,460) landed in Alberta last year.

As the fourth-largest immigrant destination (by number of PRs) in all of Canada for 2022, the anticipated changes to healthcare delivery in Alberta would impact a significant number of Canadian newcomers. In addition, this impact will likely be felt in a variety of ways, from healthcare access (as intended by the reform) to employment prospects.


As stated by Alberta’s Premier, one of the goals related to this reform is the recruitment of additional staff in the healthcare industry. This will likely mean that prospective newcomers to Canada will have more opportunities to find employment in this province.

Evidence of this potential can be found in many places, including the recent introduction of category-based Express Entry draws.

These draws, which divert from the typical focus of standard Express Entry draws on a candidate’s Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score, instead prioritize the selection of immigration candidates based on selected proficiencies and past work experience.

In 2023, Canada’s immigration department selected the following six categories as areas of focus for category-based draws. This year’s categories prioritize immigration candidates with:

  • French-language proficiency

or work experience in one of the following five industries:

  • Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics (STEM)
  • Trades
  • Transportation
  • Agriculture and Agri-Food
  • Healthcare

As evidenced by the inclusion of healthcare occupations in the 2023 list of categories designated by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), Canada needs more skilled workers in this industry. Therefore, with the reforms coming to Alberta’s healthcare system, prospective newcomers could see a heightened level of opportunity to immigrate to, work and live in the province.

Alberta’s recent growth

Alberta, beyond its position as last year’s fourth most popular immigrant destination, is also a province experiencing a general boom in population growth over recent years.

In fact, according to Statistics Canada data referenced in a CTV story from September, Alberta’s population on July 1 this year was 4.7 million, “4.1 percent higher than [July 1] last year due to an increase of 184,400 people.”

The same story also noted that Alberta’s population has recently “boomed more than others, [outpacing] the national average by 1.1 percentage points.”

As a result of this population growth, most of which can be attributed to international migration*, Alberta has seen a growth in its labour force “at its fastest annual pace since 2007” excluding the COVID recovery period.

*International migration has accounted for 61% of the total provincial population increase (112,562 people) in Alberta

In the words of ATB Financial Vice President and Chief Economist Mark Parsons, migration [to Alberta from other parts of the world provides] a steady source of people to fill some of these jobs”.

Note: CTV’s story notes that the one other primary driving factor in Alberta’s population boom is migration from other parts of Canada (mostly Ontario and British Columbia), which accounts for roughly 31% (56,245 people) of the province’s population growth.

Immigrating to Alberta

For foreign nationals considering Alberta as their destination, the province has pathways available to all types of newcomers, including temporary foreign workers and entrepreneurs.

As an example, Alberta’s Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) is called the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program (AAIP).

This provincial immigration system includes a variety of streams for workers and entrepreneurs, each of which has different requirements with respect to such things as, for example, the need for an existing job offer prior to applying.

More: This dedicated webpage can provide readers with more information about the AAIP

The following is a sample list of AAIP streams:

For workers

  • Alberta Opportunity Stream – A pathway to permanent residence in Alberta for skilled workers already working in an eligible occupation in the province
  • Rural Renewal Stream – A pathway for candidates with an existing Alberta-based job offer for work in a rural Alberta community

For entrepreneurs 

  • Graduate Entrepreneur Stream – A pathway for international graduates of a designated post-secondary institution in Alberta, who wish to start a business in the province
  • Foreign Graduate Entrepreneur Stream – A pathway for foreign nationals who graduated from an institution outside Canada and want to start a business in Alberta

Click here for more information about landing, settling and life in Alberta, including information about working across the province and healthcare – among a variety of other topics.

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