October 18, 2017 – A November 1 deadline is fast approaching for the federal government to publish its Canada immigration levels plan.
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen has engaged in consultations across the country as he prepares to make the politically sensitive announcement.
Hussen must find the critical balance between economic immigrants, family reunification and refugees, as well as setting the overall number of immigrants Canada will aim to accept in 2018.
It will be the minister’s first immigration levels announcement, having taken over the job from the former Minister John McCallum in 2017.
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In a recent statement to CBC News, Hussen said: “Canada’s immigration system continues to be based on compassion, efficiency and economic opportunity for all, while protecting the health, safety and security of Canadians.
“Canada’s system of immigration has been recognized internationally as a thoughtful, responsible approach that takes into consideration the need for more immigrants while balancing our fiscal and global responsibilities.”
Hussen has already indicated the numbers are set to increase beyond the 300,000 mark, established as the new base level for immigration under the Liberals. The previous annual level was 250,000 for nearly two decades.
Canada’s 2017 Immigration Plan
|Provincial Nominee Programs||49,000||54,000||51,000|
|Quebec Skilled Workers and Business||28,000||31,200||29,300|
|Family||Spouses, Partners and Children||62,000||66,000||64,000|
|Parents and Grandparents||18,000||20,000||20,000|
|Refugees and Protected Persons||Protected Persons in Canada and Dependants Abroad||13,000||16,000||15,000|
|Blended Visa Office-Referred||1,000||3,000||1,500|
|Protected Persons and Refugees Total||33,000||46,000||40,000|
|Humanitarian and Other||Humanitarian and Other||2,900||4,500||3,500|
Source: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
A recent federal-provincial-territorial meeting established support for a multi-year levels plan, although it is unclear whether the government will act on this support or for how far into the future a plan will go.
Canada’s population is aging, its birth rate is falling and its labour market contracting. Increased immigration levels are an important tool to help offset this growing demographic challenge.
450,000 New Immigrants a Year Unrealistic
The Conference Board of Canada, in its latest report on immigration, advocates a 50 per cent increase in annual immigration levels to 450,000 a year. Ottawa is well advised to exercise caution with the theoretical assumptions raised in this report.
The October 2 report, titled “450,000 Immigrants Annually? Integration is Imperative to Growth, establishes three scenarios based on three different immigration levels as a percentage of Canada’s population: 0.82 per cent (the current level was set at 300,000 for 2017), one per cent and 1.11 per cent.
The problem with the board’s calculations is the failure to address our biggest dilemma: how Canada can quickly and successfully integrate so many new immigrants.
The evidence is clear: Incremental increases in immigration numbers over the long term are likely to be a significant economic benefit to Canada. But the increase needs to take place in a managed way to allow the capacity to integrate newcomers to grow alongside the numbers.
Immigration levels in the 450,000 range are unrealistic in relation to our current levels, and are designed purely to garner headlines. Ottawa is advised to set its course more prudently.
Canada is reliant on immigration as it tries to reverse an aging population trend. The four provinces of Atlantic Canada are at the sharp end of the issue.
In 2016, 19.5 per cent of the Atlantic Canada population was aged 65 or over, compare to a national average of 16.5 per cent, according to another Conference Board report. At the same time, deaths exceed births in all four Atlantic provinces.
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The immigrant population in the region is significantly lower than the rest of Canada. The 2011 census revealed Nova Scotia had the largest immigrant population in the region at 5.3 per cent. The Canada-wide immigrant population is 20.6 per cent.
The challenge is not just to attract new immigrants, but also to retain them. The region is also subject to a high out-migration rate to other Canadian provinces. It is also struggling with a low birth rate.
Immigrants are needed to spur economic growth, as healthcare costs begin to rise.
There are positives the region needs to highlight in order to attract and retain immigrants.
Immigrant unemployment and wage gaps are low, while those who stay in the region can expect to earn more than those who choose to leave.
The four provinces are starting to attract more immigrants, but rates remain far short of the level required to compensate for those exiting the workforce.
Key areas the provinces need to work on include helping skilled immigrants and their spouses find jobs in their fields, removing barriers to international student employment, and developing welcoming communities.
A key immigration tool developed by the federal government in partnership with the four provinces is the Atlantic Immigration Pilot.
The AIP aims to attract 2,000 extra immigrants per year to the region above existing quotas, a number that could rise if the demand exists.