July 5, 2017 – Canada can become the dominant global leader for attracting economic immigrants over the next decade, but it needs to redouble efforts to pull clear of a faltering field.
That is the opinion of Jamison Steeve, executive director of the Institute of Competitiveness and Prosperity (ICP), who believes there is a danger of Canada becoming complacent in the face of the wave of protectionism sweeping global politics.
Instead of standing proud of the way Canada accepts newcomers, Steeve wants to see the federal government continue to push the country forwards, particularly on economic immigration.
“Canada has done well in this area and has established a global brand for 50 years,” Steeve wrote in an article for the Toronto Star. “This country can become the singular magnet for global talent over the next 10 years if we do it right.”
The ICP is funded by the Ontario provincial government, meaning Steeve is focused on Canada’s most populous province in researching ways it can find the economic edge.
He suggests that, if Ontario was given increased freedom under federal government caps to bring in more economic immigrants, more rapid and sustained growth could be achieved.
“Our research indicates that we are leaving a substantial amount of economic growth on the table,” Steeve writes. “If the hurdles immigrants face in finding employment were eliminated, or at least lowered, to unlock the vast economic potential of these newcomers, immigrant incomes would increase by up to $15.2 billion.
“This would be the equivalent of 2 per cent of Ontario’s GDP, creating economic prosperity, social cohesion and tax revenue that could be used to increase the quality of life for all.”
Steeve believes a well-constructed immigration policy ‘creates a virtuous circle’, where newcomers succeed and existing Canadians and the government also reap the benefits.
He says Ontario’s ability to grow is being curtailed by federal government caps on economic immigrants, with the rate at which they arrive to the province significantly lower than the national average.
“As many newcomers to Canada choose Ontario as their home, it is time for Ontario to have greater access to economic immigrants,” he writes.
If greater freedom were granted, the province could devote greater resources to tackle the familiar problem of immigrant integration.
Factors include higher unemployment rates among newcomers and the so-called immigrant ‘wage penalty’. Aggressively tackling an immigrant’s first five years here, plus focusing on women and older newcomers, could make a significant difference to the economy, Steeve believes.
‘Double Our Efforts’
“Part of the reason Canada has been able to accept new immigrants is that it has been a positive economic bargain for current residents and citizens, as well as newcomers,” Steeve writes.
“Rather than get complacent by looking at the follies of other countries, we need to double our efforts at improving the economic outcomes for immigrants. This will increase the benefits for everyone.”
In the federal government’s defence, they are motivated to increase immigration levels, but also have to walk the political tightrope.
While many were calling for dramatic increases in annual immigration targets for 2017, Ottawa instead shrewdly chose to maintain the headline number at 300,000, moving numbers away from refugees in favour of economic immigrants.
The overall provincial quota saw a modest increase from 47,800 in 2016, to 51,000 in 2017. This is likely to rise further going into 2018, although only in Justin Trudeau’s Liberals feel politically confident they can make such a move.
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