A wise approach on immigration

TheStar.com – Opinion/Editorials – The immigration plan that Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen laid out on Wednesday doesn’t qualify as a particularly bold approach, but overall it’s probably a wise one.
Nov. 1, 2017.   By

The Trudeau government may get some push-back on its new three-year immigration plan. After all, it sets a goal of increasing the number of newcomers to record levels – 340,000 by the year 2020.

In fact, it’s a relatively cautious plan. If the government simply listened to its own experts and to independent authorities like the Conference Board of Canada, it would move even faster. After all, those experts recommend raising immigration much higher – to 450,000 a year – just to meet the economic and demographic challenges ahead.

By comparison, the plan that Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen laid out on Wednesday takes a more modest, step-by-step approach. It starts by increasing Canada’s immigration target just a bit next year to 310,000, then to 330,000 in 2019 and 340,000 in 2020.

It doesn’t qualify as a particularly bold approach, but overall it’s probably a wise one.

It will allow the government to fend off any accusations that it is opening the floodgates to immigration. Despite much evidence to the contrary, there is still a widespread perception that immigrants take jobs from other Canadians and any government must manage those concerns.

More importantly, ramping up the immigration level more gradually will allow government agencies and private-sector organizations to ensure that newcomers are integrated as successfully as possible. That means job placement, language training, housing and a host of services designed to make sure the greatest possible number of immigrants succeed.

The argument in favour of more immigration is irrefutable at this point. Canada has a relatively old population – our median age is 43 – and we simply aren’t producing enough babies to ensure there are enough workers in the future to pay taxes and support all our retirees. Bringing in more immigrants is the best way to make sure Canada remains dynamic and prosperous for decades ahead.

Right now Canada is bringing in 0.8 per cent of the population in new immigrants each year. Hussen’s plan will raise that to 0.9 per cent. But the experts agree that a better target is 1 per cent of the population each year, and the government should continue to raise its sights until it reaches that level.

There’s never been a better time to do this. As Hussen pointed out on Wednesday, Canada has earned a positive reputation around the world as a welcoming country at a time when the United States and many nations in Europe have been closing their doors to newcomers. “We are emphatically and unapologetically taking the opposite approach,” he said.

That’s not just a matter of political branding for the Trudeau government. It’s a potential advantage for Canada in the real world, one that if used intelligently could provide a strategic edge for this country far into the future.

Global talent is more mobile than ever, and Canada stands to attract more than its share if it is seen as a positive destination for people from all over the world.

There are already encouraging signs that is happening, for example in a sharp jump in university applications from abroad. But feel-good talk isn’t enough. The government needs to follow through with concrete measures to attract well-educated, well-motivated people to Canada. It has already taken positive steps in this direction by streamlining visa applications and work permits for high-demand international employees.

Immigration has always been key to Canada’s success. The government has made a good start on ensuring that will continue in the future. It should stay the course.

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2017/11/01/a-wise-approach-on-immigration-editorial.html

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