A senior strategist has urged Canada to stay aggressive with its immigration policy and continue in the direction that put the country where it is today.
Robin V. Sears, a principal at Earnscliffe and a former NDP strategist, says now is not the time for Canada to begin doubting whether increased immigration is the right way to grow the country.
He described the recent announcement to maintain immigration numbers at 300,000 for 2017 as ‘a disappointing step back’ in an article for the Toronto Star.
“As Canada is globally famous for our ability to help newcomers build new lives, we get to choose the next generation of immigrants from the smartest, most skilled and qualified applicants on the planet,” Sears writes.
He adds: “A generation from now an economy driven by 75 million Canadians would offer greater opportunities for all our citizens.
“No one disputes the benefits for all Canadians of our creation of the most successful immigrant nation in the world.”
Canada’s Immigration Targets: 2016 and 2017
|Economic||Federal Economic- High Skilled||58,400||73,700|
|Federal Economic- Caregivers||22,000||18,000|
|Federal Economic- Business||800||500|
|Provincial Nominee Program||47,800||51,000|
|Quebec Skilled Worker||26,200||29,300|
|Family||Spouses, Partners & Children||60,000||64,000|
|Parents & Grandparents||20,000||20,000|
|Refugees & Protected|
|Protected Persons in Canada|
& dependants in abroad
|Blended Visa Office-Referred||2,400||1,500|
|Privately Sponsored Refugees||17,800||16,000|
|Refugees & Protected|
|Humanitarian and Other||Humanitarian and Other||3,600||3,500|
Source: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
Sears attacked those who are criticising immigration policies using ‘Canadian values’ rhetoric.
For him, the most powerfully Canadian image of recent times is Justin Trudeau putting coats on Syrian children as they arrived at Toronto’s Pearson Airport in December 2015.
While he accepts that the integration of Syrians might be more difficult than that of Italians or other Europeans from Canada’s history, he feels there is an established track record to rely on.
“Our successful integration of literally millions of new immigrants from more than 100 nations in just two generations is unparalleled in human history,” he writes.
“Why should we not be more ambitious? It’s not as if we have too many people, or too little land, or an overflow of skilled workers.”
Sears’ criticism of Canada’s 2017 immigration levels as being a step backwards is being harsh on the federal government.
By keeping the number at 300,000, the federal government is establishing a benchmark level for the coming years.
It could not jump in and significantly increase the number of newcomers without upsetting a large proportion of the electorate. Instead, it will add numbers, but in a strategic and measured way.
It is important to note that while the upper target for 2016 immigration is 305,000, the government is expected to exceed that figure after welcoming 320,000 newcomers in the year to July.
The upper target for 2017 is 320,000 but if 2016 is anything to go by, the government views these figures as guidance rather than imposing any strict limit.
Numbers will rise significantly in the come years, but the government knows the increase must be carefully managed to appease all stakeholders.
Sears makes several pro-immigration arguments in his article that are increasingly being backed up by facts.
A leading study gives conclusive evidence that immigrants are far more likely to own businesses than their Canadian counterparts, a key growth component.
Released in March 2016 and titled Immigration, Business Ownership and Employment in Canada, the study concludes that ‘rates of private business ownership and unincorporated self-employment are higher among immigrants than among the Canadian-born population’.
We know this officially for the first time because data based on immigrant business ownership has only recently become available with the introduction of the Canadian Employer-Employee Dynamics Database, which you can access here.
Statistics also show immigrant children consistently beat their peers with Canadian-born parents in terms of educational attainment.
A paper entitled ‘Educational and Labour Market Outcomes of Childhood Immigrants by Admission Class’ by Statistics Canada reveals the children of immigrants graduate high school at a rate of 91.6 per cent, against 88.8 per cent of children who are third generation or more.
When it comes to university, the gap increases, with 35.9 per cent of immigrant children graduating against 24.4 per cent from the established Canadian group.
Contribution of Immigrant Children
|Privately sponsored refugees||91.2||31.7||43,900|
|Refugees landed in Canada||91.4||29.4||35,400|
CANADIAN (OR MORE)
Figures: Statistics Canada
At the same time, further figures show the percentage of immigrants in the working-age population has been steadily increasing for the last decade as the Canada-born proportion drops, illustrating the need to make up for the shortfall by bringing in foreign workers.
In 2006 less than 20 per cent of the workforce – those aged 15 and over – were from the landed immigrant population, while more than 78 per cent were born in Canada.
But fast forward 10 years and the latest data released by Statistics Canada shows an immigrant percentage just less than 24, while the Canada-born proportion has dropped almost as low as 74 per cent.
If the trend continues – and there’s no indication it will not – the two percentages will converge.
The numbers are increasingly dramatic over the last 12 months, when the number of immigrants in work increased by more than 260,000, 6.6 per cent higher than a year ago.
In the same period, the number of native-born workers has decreased by 93,300, although it is showing signs of recovery in the last two months.
Analysts say the data shows Canada has reached the point where it cannot grow without immigrants, with Canadian-born workers exiting the labour force at such a rate.
A further study suggests the more immigrants of a given nationality or culture a country welcomes, the more likely the nation of origin is to invest further down the line.
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, investment comes in the long term, as often the ‘push’ factors of migration mean the nation of origin is not able to invest in the short term.
A good example of this is Syria, extremely unlikely to invest any time soon, but with refugees spreading all over the world, including more than 30,000 in Canada, investment could flow in more stable times when citizens are looking for places to put their assets.
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