Immigration Numbers Are Growing Impressively—Even More Are Needed

The happiest news for Nova Scotia in 2019 was released in December. It revealed that Nova Scotia added 12,339 residents in the 12 months ending September 30th.

In the most recent quarter, the percentage increase was fifth among the provinces and equal to the Canadian average.

There were two key components of the increase. Inter-provincial net migration was a favourable 3,461 with the biggest gains being from Ontario, even though Ontario is a leader in overall population growth.

One plausible explanation is that Halifax’s house prices, though rising, are still a bargain for any of the 6 million people living in the Greater Toronto Area.

British Columbia and Alberta have also been net positive contributors to Nova Scotia’s population. Vancouver and surrounding areas also have very expensive real estate, while Alberta is still struggling with the downturn in the oil patch.

The biggest component in Nova Scotia was the 7,165 immigrants, 2,471 of whom arrived in the most recent three months. Immigrants tend to congregate in urban areas so Halifax is likely to be the primary beneficiary.

They include many health care and other professionals. In recent years, the largest sources of immigrants have been India, China, and The Philippines. Two-thirds of the immigrants arrived under provincial nominee programs.

They will create additional markets for rural economies, including farmers, seafood producers, and lumber mills. The new Nova Scotians will want to explore the province, adding to customers for accommodations and restaurants.

Their need for housing will prolong the robust pace of construction activity in Halifax and surrounding communities. Having more Nova Scotians means the interest on provincial debt and fixed costs for some government services will be spread over a larger number of taxpayers.

Immigrants are much younger than the Canadian average, so a continued flow will slow the pace at which Nova Scotia is aging.

A third component of growth is the remarkable increase in students at Nova Scotian Universities, coming entirely from out-of-province enrolments. Compared to 2017, there are 3,600 more full-time students, two-thirds of them at Cape Breton University. Each one can be expected to spend $30,000 or more on locally produced goods and services.

Future growth in student numbers is likely to be small. To keep our population growing at this year’s pace, we need to further increase our annual immigrant numbers to 10,000.

Nova Scotia is becoming a greater part of Canada’s success. The country is now receiving more than 300,000 immigrants per year and plans to move to 350,000.

Canada’s system works because more than 90% of those who are offered the opportunity to become Canadians have been carefully selected based on their economic and social prospects.

Canada also has an admired refugee settlement process. The primary determinant for eligibility is that the individual or family is displaced from their own country and has no near-term prospect for safely returning.

There is not the usual filter for economic and social fit, so the prospects for settling successfully are usually not as good, although many are helped by private sponsors.

Canada received about 28,000 refugees in 2018. It is important that the number of refugees be managed, not just because settlement is costly, but also because having more than we can successfully support will weaken public support for the program.

A third category of new residents is asylum seekers. They are individuals who arrive in Canada and seek refugee status from inside the country. Most of them are not under the kind of threats that make people eligible for refugee status.

Until recently, the number of those was limited because our only land border is with the United States. But beginning in 2017, large numbers arrived in Quebec via Roxham Road. They now number about 20,000 per year.

According to Queen’s University professor Christian Leuprecht, who has written on the Roxham Road unofficial crossing point, “It’s been exploited by undeserving refugee claimants who are jumping the queue … and we’re told a very large number of them … will ultimately be found unworthy as claimants and will be ordered removed,” he said. “But we know that they also disappear into society and Canada doesn’t seem to have the resources to locate and remove these people.”

This diverts resources from supporting legitimate refugees and increases the risk of social problems from unsuccessful claimants.

Nova Scotia is starting to receive a good number of immigrants, though still less than our proportionate share based on population. We need to get more of Canada’s legitimate immigrants. Canada needs to better manage illegitimate asylum seekers.

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