The Canadian Migration Experiment


In a country with a population similar to that of California, more people have arrived in a year than San Francisco has. Last week, Canada surpassed 40 million inhabitants for the first time in history. Growth is expected to continue at a fast pace as the country has opened its borders. For the administration of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a massive immigration experiment is a way to expand the labor market in the face of intensifying global competition for skilled workers. It also reflects Canada’s long-term ambition to expand its international presence and step out of the shadow of the United States, a country similar in size but with about eight times its population and nearly 12 times its gross domestic product. that immigrants can take,” said Usha George, a professor at Toronto Metropolitan University and a specialist in Canadian immigration policy. “We need more people to develop our agricultural, industrial and technological base.”

Increasing immigration targets

But now, with people pouring into the country like never before, Canada faces a new challenge: how to drive growth in rural regions that urgently need new arrivals, while minimizing the strain on urban centers that are already full of people. Population growth has boosted employment and consumption helping the economy withstand a series of interest rate hikes by the Bank of Canada. However, critics of the government’s plan to open borders note that increasing immigration targets affects production without raising individuals’ living standards. Real GDP per capita has changed little over the past decade and is expected to fall from its peak in 2022, according to Bank of Canada projections. Even some pro-immigration economists say Canada is going too far and too fast. rapid growth in such a short period of time does not make sense,” said David Dodge, a former governor of the Bank of Canada who worked decades ago on the system that was the genesis of the current immigration program. “The speed of this adjustment increases costs and reduces additional productivity because people have less time to adjust.” The Trudeau administration has set a goal of admitting about half a million permanent residents each year. Last year, international students, temporary workers and refugees made up another group, bringing the total number of arrivals to a record one million. The influx of people has resulted in Canada’s annual population growth rate of 2.7 percent, the fastest rate among developed economies and rivaling developing countries such as Burkina Faso, Burundi and Sudan. Currently, nearly one in four people in Canada is an immigrant, which is the highest percentage among the countries of the Group of Seven. At current growth rates, the smallest G7 country in terms of population will double its population in about 26 years, surpassing Italy, France, the UK and Germany by 2050. tax revenues and shrinking budgets – are being addressed in various ways around the world. The French plan to raise the retirement age by two years (to 64) has led to nationwide protests. Germany is at risk of losing 5 million workers by the end of the decade and is already grappling with strains in its industrial economy. Japan, where the government has long opposed immigration, faces severe labor shortages, rapid population decline and dying rural areas. In the United States, immigration is a divisive political issue that becomes even more polarizing as thousands of migrants cross the border into Mexico every day.

Opening to newcomers

By contrast, Canadians have long welcomed new arrivals. Since 1967, Canada has relied on a system where immigrants are awarded points based on their age, education, employment opportunities, and English or French language skills, allowing the country to target skilled workers. But immigration has largely gone towards Canada’s larger cities. In one year, the largest centers received a net gain of more than 600,000 immigrants, compared with only 21,000 people settling in non-urban areas. This has only fueled the demand for real estate in cities that were already in short supply of housing, pushing up prices and thus making it impossible for both immigrants and Canadian natives – especially the younger generation – to find their own housing. “We are a free country. We’re not going to guide migration patterns and tell people to move to remote places,” said Bob Dhillon, founder and CEO of Mainstreet Equity Corp. based in Calgary who is a Sikh immigrant. “However, we can encourage new immigrants and give them incentives to move to other parts of Canada than the big cities,” says Dhillon. In his city, the massive influx of immigrants has caused property prices to rise by almost 28 percent compared to just five years ago. Mortgage broker Matt Leggett said he had never seen so much demand for housing since he moved to Calgary nearly two decades ago. Leslie Echino, owner of Annabelle’s Kitchen, has spent months looking for a third location for her business in one of the city’s fast-growing suburbs, but newly vacated retail spaces are usually occupied within days. Bucci Developments, a rental property development company, offered a month of free rent two years ago and now has a waiting list for its units. The company is trying to keep up with the rising demand by doubling its construction target and planning to build four more skyscrapers near the downtown area. According to David Green, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver School of Economics, these types of real estate shocks could reduce Canadian support for immigrants . “We’re opening the door to the same kind of problems we see in other countries,” Green said.

Canadian values

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser says the government is trying to address tensions with measures such as regionalizing immigration programs to allocate people to areas with greater capacity and a program to bring in more people with skills that are in high demand, such as health care workers or builders. “It will help us bring the skills we need into the economy to ease some social pressures, not exacerbate them,” says Fraser. Public support for such a migration policy also remains high. Canadians view immigration “as a value, not a policy,” said Andrew Parkin, executive director of the Environics Institute for Survey Research, which conducts an annual survey on the subject. In the latest survey, nearly 70 percent of respondents said they disagreed with the statement “generally, there is too much immigration to Canada,” the highest number since the survey began in 1977. of respondents who agreed that immigration was too much, the most common reason was the threat to Canadian culture. Concerns about demographic change are evident in French-speaking Quebec, Canada’s second most populous province. The provincial premier, François Legault, said the region would not accept a large increase in immigrants like the rest of the country, fearing it would lead to the decline of the French language. At the same time, industry groups have repeatedly called for more immigration, citing staff shortages. Quebec companies are increasingly hiring temporary workers, and the number of temporary foreign workers has increased by 65 percent in just three years. In all provinces, many accreditation and employment processes cannot develop fast enough to take advantage of the rapid increase in new arrivals. For this reason, many skilled immigrants, awaiting recognition of their foreign qualifications, have been forced into jobs that require basic education. However, both highly and low-skilled workers are needed throughout Canada, where the labor market remains tight. “The vast majority” of immigrants contribute to the economy, says Kevin McNichol, CEO of Prospect Human Services, a company that helps newcomers find jobs.

Growth issues vs. stagnation problems

These kinds of benefits become clear in Nova Scotia, which knows the pains of a shrinking population. Ten years ago, the region was slowly dying. After the closure of key industries such as steel and coal mining, some people of working age moved to look for work. Only the elderly population and cities that struggled to survive remained. The largest Atlantic province now aims to double its population to 2 million by 2060 – an ambitious goal, considering that Nova Scotia needed more than 150 years to reach one million inhabitants in 2021. Nova Scotia is also a leader in breaking down barriers to newcomers to work in professions corresponding to their potential. When Bahati Maganjo came from Kenya to Pictou County in 2021, she could only work as an assistant in a retirement home, despite being trained as a nurse. She is currently part of a pilot program for accelerated integration of nurses with international education and is expected to start her profession in July. “My colleagues and patients appreciate what I bring,” said Maganjo. “I can’t imagine waiting years before I could contribute here.” The provincial capital of Halifax, with a population of approximately 480,000, has set a goal of increasing its population by 10 percent by 2027 and 35 percent by 2037. Expanded talent pool was key to attracting companies such as Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp., HuMetis Technologies Inc., Avanade Inc. and Wattpad Corp. In recent years. Population growth contributed to an annual increase in rents for a two-bedroom apartment in Halifax by 9.3 percent, the largest increase of any major Canadian city. For Mayor Mike Savage, however, it pays off. As he put it, “Growth issues are easier to manage than stagnation problems.” Source:

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