The CEO of a major business group has issued a stark call for Canada to get its immigration system back up to speed sooner rather than later.
Goldy Hyder, the president and CEO of the not-for-profit Business Council of Canada, believes immigration should be ‘a pillar of Canada’s post-pandemic economic recovery plan’.
In an article for the Globe and Mail, Hyder highlights how coronavirus restrictions have dramatically slowed the number of new immigrants coming to Canada during 2020.
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He says that while the focus has been on job losses, firms going out of business and emergency government spending during the pandemic, significant long-term damage could come as a result of a significant reduction in immigration.
“The collapse in immigration means Canada’s population is currently experiencing its slowest growth since 2015,” Hyder said.
“That will have important implications across many sectors, including residential construction, industries with labour shortages, and Canada’s post-secondary education system.”
Canada’s pre-pandemic target for new immigrants in 2020 is 341,000, but the dramatic impact of international travel restrictions on new arrivals means it is expected to fall short of this figure by 170,000, according to RBC Economics.
As restrictions fully took hold in April, the number of newcomers plummeted 85 percent to 4,140. Numbers increased to 11,000 in May and 19,200 in June, but remain significantly below federal government targets.
Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino has introduced a number of special measures aimed at mitigating the impact of the pandemic. But the fact remains that the ability to welcome new immigrants is majorly hindered by travel restrictions, currently in place until September 31, 2020, but likely to be extended.
Hyder says that once restrictions are removed, Canada must ramp up its immigration system to make up the missing numbers.
“Immigration must be a pillar of Canada’s post-pandemic economic recovery plan,” he said, calling for the government to “make up lost ground by raising the targets for 2022 and beyond.”
“The incremental growth should emphasize economic-class newcomers – those admitted through Express Entry programs, the Provincial Nominee Program, Quebec’s programs, and other federal streams such as the Atlantic Immigration Pilot,” Hyder added.
“The demographic factors that drive Canada’s need for immigrants have not changed due to COVID-19 … the sooner Canada’s immigration system gets back on track, the better.”