The Liberals Have Made a Mess in Immigration

Canada’s Immigration policy was a widely admired success for many years. Now it is a problem.

Since 1967 the program has used a points system to identify the immigration applicants who had the best chance of succeeding. With many applicants to consider it meant that those who were chosen did well and became valuable members of their communities. Numbers were managed based on Canada’s need.

That left room to welcome a manageable number of refugees from conflict areas such as Hungary, Kosovo, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Syria, Ukraine and many others.

More recently we have seen a flood of arrivals with non-permanent status:

  1. Asylum Seekers. These are people without refugee status who come into Canada with the hope of being able to stay. Some of them are able to prove that they should be recognized as refugees, but most are economic migrants.
    As of July 1st there were 257,000 of these, up 100,000 from a year earlier. These are not included in the other categories below, even if they have permits.
    Most of them arrived via Roxham Road, where the government facilitated entry. That slowed to a trickle when the government shut it down.
    Since then there has been an upsurge in claims at airports, in part because Canada has been waiving some eligibility requirements for visitor visa applicants.
  2. Work Permit Holders. These include temporary foreign workers, spouses, and international exchanges. In the light of tight labour markets, some requirements for eligibility are being waived.
    After growing by 40,000 in the twelve months ending July 1, 2022 this group grew by 400,000 in the next twelve months.
  3. Study Permit Holders. The number of study permit holders grew by 190,000 in twelve months, to reach 856,000 in mid-2023. That includes 274,000 who also have work permits. They are often able to bring spouses and children and can easily obtain work permits. Many see the studies primarily as a way to access special programs for students to qualify as immigrants. There are no provincial or federal limits on enrolments.

When the total number of non-permanent residents increased by 200,000 in the twelve months ending mid-2022 it was a new high. The increase in the twelve months ending in July this year was an out of control 700,000.

The total population grew by 1,150,000 in the most recent twelve months. Less than half of that came from the well-managed system that made Canada a model for other countries. The economy has shown some growth, but on a per capita basis it is flagging.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller has proposed a future goal of 500,000 immigrants per year. Based on current pace, adding the increase in non-permanent residents will bring the total to more than one million.

No wonder that we have a housing crisis. To make matters worse in Nova Scotia, we have struggled to recruit carpenters, electricians, and plumbers because the rules required a high school diploma, which is not the norm in many countries with excellent tradespeople. The problem is being addressed.

No wonder our health care systems are stressed. They were not big enough before population growth accelerated and are struggling to keep up, even with the active recruitment of foreign health workers.

CMHC has predicted a housing shortage in 2030 of 3.45 million units (70,000 in Nova Scotia) based on current rates of construction.

The baseline population projection for 2030 in CMHC’s report is 43 million residents. If the pace of population growth matches 2023, the population in 2030 will be about 47 million. CMHC’s numbers for Nova Scotia would be equally inadequate.

Pollsters report that Canadians are already losing their long held support for immigration.

The current pace of population growth is too much of a good thing. Population pressures are the main cause of tent cities and rapidly rising rents. Federal and provincial governments need to urgently address both the supply and the demand for housing.

  1. Dramatically increase capacity for training new tradespeople and intensify recruiting from other countries. Be willing to take candidates with close to the necessary qualifications and build programs to fill in the rest.
  2. In the short term, reduce the intake of new immigrants and non-permanent students. Reduce the work permits for low-paying jobs, especially in the hospitality sector. That will put upward pressure on the wages.
  3. Aggressively reduce the number of asylum seekers who are clearly not eligible for refugee status. Stop waiving visa requirements for air travellers.
  4. Require that students are receiving bona fide educations. Don’t licence strip mall career collages.
  5. Set a ceiling on population growth that will let the housing shortage begin to ease.

The creation of work and study permits added a useful tool to Canada’s admired immigration policy. Why do we have no limits on the number of them while having limits on regular immigrants?

The government has lost control. It must strongly manage the number of newcomers and revive Canadians’ strong support for immigration.


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