Toronto Star: Amid Growing Dissent, Will Canada Change Its Immigration Plans?

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said she’s concerned about the backlash against the immigrant community.

“No good will come out of that because we have already lived through racism and discrimination in Canada’s history,” she said. “The government has to have a housing plan and an infrastructure plan for our community.”

Tom Kmiec, the Conservative immigration critic, did not respond to the Star’s requests for comment. This summer, his party leader, Pierre Poilievre, did say the immigration system is broken, but sidestepped reporters’ questions about whether he would change the current targets.

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And, as the government seeks to maintain public support for immigration, some say how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals approach immigration — and the messaging around it — will be key.

The government’s current immigration plan, unveiled in 2022, aimed to bring in 465,000 new permanent residents this year, 485,000 in 2024 and 500,000 in 2025. The immigration ministry is on track to meet the 2023 target.

The upcoming plan, however, will look at the numbers for the next three years.

Recent polls suggest that Canadians’ appetite for more immigration may be waning. A Nanos report in September showed 53 per cent of Canadians wanted Ottawa to accept fewer immigrants, up from 34 per cent in a similar poll in March. Then, an online survey by Research Co. in October found 38 per cent of Canadians said they believe immigration is having a mostly negative effect, up 12 percentage points from research conducted a year ago.
“Some people are feeling there’s too much immigration, when it comes to the fact that it’s driving up the housing cost, exacerbating the housing shortage, making the connection between immigration and health care and education,” says Toronto Metropolitan University professor Rupa Banerjee, whose research focuses on immigrant employment integration.

“Immigration is on people’s radar more and the plan will be scrutinized a lot more closely.”

So far, the government has seemed inclined to stay the course.

“I don’t see a world in which we lower it, the need is too great,” Miller told Bloomberg in August. “Whether we revise them upwards or not is something that I have to look at.”

Magdalene Cooman of the Conference Board of Canada said Canadians need to understand the immigration plan’s long-term objectives are to address the country’s aging population and boost economic growth.

While immigrants do need housing, health care and other government services, she said, people shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that newcomers are also part of the solutions to those challenges, and contribute to the workforce, whether it’s by building new homes or caring for those in hospitals.

“There is a reason why the federal government has moved in this direction,” said Cooman, the board’s interim associate director in charge of immigration research.

“Immigration is really the only way to increase population, to support population growth and to support the future of Canada.”

A recent report by Desjardins said the country’s working-age population (those 15 to 64) would need to grow by just over two per cent annually in order to offset the impacts of aging. That growth relies largely on immigration.

“What’s the optimal level of immigration to Canada? This can be a tough question to answer, as ‘optimal’ is in the eye of the beholder,” said the report. “It depends on the policy objective that immigration is meant to achieve.”

While the short-term strains of the population growth are already showing, the report suggested the federal government could restrict the admission of non-permanent residents such as international students and temporary foreign workers.

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