Canada’s immigration minister says he wants to see new immigrants spread across the country evenly, instead of concentrated in major cities.
John McCallum is ready to welcome immigrants to Canada in ever-increasing numbers, but doesn’t want to see them all living in Toronto and Vancouver.
He says initiatives like the one in Atlantic Canada – where quotas have been increased for that region specifically – will help ensure the impact on Canada’s major population centres is reduced.
However, McCallum also admitted that his hands are somewhat tied, given Canadian permanent residents get the freedom to move anywhere in the country as a constitutional right.
McCallum made the comments at a business meeting in Vancouver, one of the key cities immigrants are drawn to when they first move to Canada.
Quaking in Their Boots
The thought of double the numbers of Chinese permanent residents – mentioned by McCallum on his recent trip to Asia – would have had Vancouverites quaking in their boots with housing prices already out of control.
McCallum’s aim to spread the new immigrants far and wide will have been encouraging – now he just needs to show how he will go about it.
The British Columbian government took the drastic step of imposing a 15 per cent tax on foreign house-buyers recently in an effort to cool the market.
Telling was the fact that the tax was not even mentioned on McCallum’s recent trip to China, where he paved the way for up to 10 new visa processing centres to be built in order to attract more Chinese tourists, students, plus temporary and permanent residents.
“I was a little surprised. I thought it might be raised, but nobody raised it and I didn’t raise it with them,” McCallum said.
Raft of Changes
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will visit China in September, when a deal on the new visa centres could be signed.
Meanwhile, McCallum is back home preparing to announce a raft of changes to the immigration system, which will including setting the immigration levels for Canada over the next three years.
He has said he expects those numbers to grow, with the 300,000 due to arrive in 2016 already a modern-era record.
McCallum and the Liberals believe immigration is the way to kick-start the Canadian economy, and there is considerable evidence to back this up.
Immigrants are significantly more likely to start their own businesses than Canadians, according to a Statistics Canada study.
Separate StatsCan figures show how the contribution of Canadian-born workers to the labour force is dwindling, meaning immigration is a necessity to make up the shortfall.
A more secondary benefit is that the children of immigrants are proven to do better in school than their Canadian counterparts.
Overall, it is an accepted reality that immigrants are more motivated members of society than Canadians. Given a new start in life in one of the world’s greatest countries, they are ready to do all they can to make a success of it.
Retention of immigrants must be addressed strategically by all levels of government.
Provincial policy makers need to create the right conditions and consider a variety of measures for immigrants to remain there.
Some possible measures include:
- Short term provincial tax credits for new residents.
- Offer residential land purchases in outlying areas at below market prices.
- Conditional property tax exemptions.
Given the need to rely on immigration as a tool to meet growing demographic challenges, policy makers in Atlantic Canada and elsewhere must consider the carrot approach.
The immigration tools are in place. They just need to be complemented with input from a much wider range of stakeholders to create the right conditions for immigrants to remain by choice.
This strategy will go a long way to helping ensure the success of Canada’s overall immigration policy objectives.
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