Immigration critical to Canada’s future prosperity
TheStar.com – Opinion/Editorials – Canada needs more newcomers to help maintain economy, major report says
Oct. 11, 2016. Editorial
As he prepares to release Ottawa’s 2017 immigration targets next month, Immigration Minister John McCallum finds himself in a tough spot, squeezed between Canadians who say we need more newcomers and those who say enough is enough.
McCallum has hinted in recent weeks that the Liberal government intends to “substantially” increase the number of immigrants next year above the current level of 260,000.
Such a move would be welcomed by those who believe Canada has a moral responsibility to welcome newcomers from all parts of the world and those who are convinced that increased immigration is vital to our future prosperity.
At the same time, McCallum is aware of a backlash to rising immigration numbers among a large part of the population.
The minister sees it in recent polls that suggest barely a quarter of the country favours higher immigration levels. A Nanos Research poll conducted in August found that 39 per cent of Canadians say Ottawa should accept fewer immigrants in 2017 than in 2016 and 37 per cent say Ottawa should maintain the same level. Just 16 per cent say we should accept more immigrants.
The actual number of newcomers will likely top 300,000, due partly to the arrival of Syrian refugees.
McCallum also sees anti-immigrant sentiment being fuelled during the current federal Conservative leadership race where some candidates, most notably Kellie Leitch, are proposing increased screening of potential newcomers for “anti-Canadian values.”
But when he sets the 2017 targets, McCallum should reject the populist calls to slam the brakes on immigration. Such calls are based largely on fear and misinformation.
Instead, the minister should follow the advice of respected economists and demographic experts who argue persuasively that Canada needs to boost its immigration levels in the coming years to help soften the effects of an aging population on our economy.
In particular, McCallum should study a major new report released last week by the Conference Board of Canada, which looked into how the aging of the country’s population will affect the economy in the years ahead and what can be done to help alleviate that impact.
The 54-page report concluded that immigration levels need to rise steadily until they reach 408,000 annually by 2030 in order to help the growth of the labour force and generate higher economic growth. It even suggested Canada will need a population of 100 million by the end of the century to ensure economic health.
The report, which mirrors several earlier reports on this issue, says higher immigration levels could potentially increase the growth of our labour force over the long term and generate higher economic growth. It adds that a larger Canadian population cannot totally offset the effects of an aging population, but it can soften the impact.
Simply put, Canada isn’t growing fast enough to make it possible to ensure there will be enough workers to fill the jobs of the future and to spark innovation and investment. Our birth rate is extremely low and within a few decades we could be suffering negative population growth unless immigration levels are raised.
Some provinces are already worried about the trend. In Ontario, the provincial government is actively trying to attract highly skilled immigrants it says it needs to fuel economic growth and to meet an expected shortage of 364,000 skilled workers by 2025.
Over the years, successive Liberal and Conservative governments have seen the long-term benefit of immigration to Canada. As the Conference Board report indicates, we will need even more newcomers in the years ahead.
McCallum should act on that warning and raise the immigration target in 2017.
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