Reality: Canada’s population is aging rapidly, which will put additional pressure on Canada’s health care workforce and system.
Fact: Canada’s fertility rate hit a record low in 2020 at 1.40 children per woman.
Fact: Immigration, not fertility, drove Canada’s population growth between 2016 and 2021 according to Statistics Canada’s 2021 Census results.
When you add it all up, it’s hard to argue with Canada’s authoritarian immigration policy. After a record year in 2021, in which we welcomed more than 405,000 new permanent residents (after a below-average 2020 due to the pandemic), Canada is aiming to welcome 1.3 million new citizens between 2022 and 2024.
The reality is that immigration is essential to Canada’s growth. Without it, our economy could stagnate, services could be disrupted, treasury revenues could decline, and we could face additional hardship, namely further labor shortages.
Fortunately, and to our credit, Canada is seen around the world as a land of opportunity and a destination of choice for immigrants and refugees. We should be proud of this excellent reputation despite the current backlogs in our system and the challenges faced by many applicants applying for Canadian citizenship or work or study visas.
As for labor shortages, RBC noted last month that shortages will continue to hit businesses after the next downturn. To counter this, as outlined in his report, we will need to convince older people to work longer, maintain or increase the flow of immigrants, and find ways to make our existing workforce more productive. Indeed, as I have said before, it is important that Canada has a comprehensive plan to boost productivity, growth and competitiveness. Immigration will be a key part of any plan, and we need to make Canada the most attractive destination for newcomers by giving them a fair chance at getting well-paying jobs.
The Century Initiative, a non-partisan network whose mission is to improve Canada’s long-term prosperity, resilience and global influence by responsibly increasing our population to 100 million by 2100, recently released a report on the impact of immigration on Canadian prosperity. The report reminds us that “immigrants are more likely to strengthen the labor market when they are well placed”. It is therefore incumbent on us to ensure that the winning conditions are in place to ensure good integration, fair wages, affordable housing and employment opportunities that correspond to the training, skills and education of immigrants.
As the Century Initiative concludes, “Even if the evidence points to a net positive impact on prosperity, Canada cannot afford to simply invest in good immigration, selection and integration policy.” For Canada’s immigration policy to be successful, we must manage the program well. As I’ve always said, manage activities and you get activities, but manage results and, yes, you get results. You cannot manage the results without proper factual statistics. What you measure improves!
Unfortunately, we seem to have gaps in the way we track certain immigrants. The CBC reported last week that the federal government was not monitoring migrant retention and, according to Statistics Canada, 50% of international students had no tax records a year after graduation, suggesting that they probably left the country. A survey by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship also tells us that almost a quarter of new Canadians with a university education plan to leave the country in the next two years.
Often, people from all over the world choose Canada because they are looking for a better life with greater opportunities and a chance to raise their standard of living. However, it is more and more difficult for them to reach this much sought-after standard of living. I have often said that integration is the pillar of our immigration policy. However, it is becoming clear to many that retention must also be addressed. We need to monitor why international students are not staying in Canada and find innovative and creative ways to reverse this trend. We could start by making sure that international credentials and degrees are recognized at home, which would help match immigrants with jobs that match their qualifications.
I know the problem is multiple. Despite Canada’s overall and resounding success in immigration, there are still gaps in the system and ways to improve how we recruit, integrate, retain and support new Canadians and international students. We need a holistic approach to addressing the various issues plaguing our immigration program.
The stakes are high, because Canada’s future prosperity and growth depend on it… and that’s a fact!