Metro/Ryan Taplin Premier Darrell Dexter speaks to reporters after Irving's Halifax Shipyard was announced as the winner of a $25-billion shipbuilding contract in October.

Diane Finley thinks Nova Scotia should deal with its unemployment before asking Ottawa for a higher cap for skilled foreign workers.

At a press conference at Irving Shipbuilding on Tuesday, the federal human resources minister took aim at Premier Darrell Dexter and the NDP government’s position on the provincial nominee program.

“Surprisingly, with 42,000 Nova Scotians looking for work, the provincial government is already calling for the federal government to allow foreign workers to come to Canada to perform work on the ships,” Finley said.

“(The federal government knows) that those workers can be found in Nova Scotia, and our first priority is linking the 42,000 looking for work with the shipbuilding jobs that will be available.”

When asked whether she has an issue with Irving’s recruitment strategy, which seeks workers from the United States and the United Kingdom, Finley noted that’s the third priority behind employing current Nova Scotians and bringing ex-pats home.

The province has been lobbying Ottawa for years to increase or remove the cap on Nova Scotia’s provincial nominees. Only 500 people can be accepted per year, while Manitoba, with a comparable population, can accept ten times that amount.

Provincial Immigration Minister Marilyn More said on Tuesday she was puzzled by the remarks.

“I’m not sure what Minister Finley is basing her conclusions or her comments on,” More said.

“It’s my understanding that there are approximately 1.4-million unemployed people in Canada. Is she suggesting that Canada should close its doors to immigration?”

As of February, Nova Scotia had an unemployment rate of 8.2 per cent ‘ 0.8 per cent higher than the Canadian average.

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