Lalande and Adams: New immigration targets essential for Canada’s economic prosperity

While I disagree with the government’s “the more the merrier” approach, I also worry that housing shortages, a strained healthcare system and other weaknesses may understandably erode support. And it is positive that the CI and others are more forthcoming of these issues, or the costs of increasing immigration:

Canada is breaking records on immigration. The federal government recently announced increased targets for the next two years, with the intention to welcome a record 500,000 new permanent residents in 2025. Statistics Canada’s latest release from the 2021 census shows immigrants now make up a greater share of the population than at any point in our history as a country. The latest Focus Canada survey reportbreaks a record of a different kind: Canadians have never been more supportive of immigration than they are today, showing Canada truly stands out for its openness to diversity and change.

These points also suggest an awareness of the vital contribution immigrants make to the country’s social and economic fabric. That may in part explain why Canadians have grown more open to immigration and multiculturalism, not less. The Focus Canada survey report found 70 per cent of Canadians support current immigration levels—the largest majority to do so in more than four decades of polling.

Similarly, there is also growing public support for accepting refugees, not only from Ukraine, but also from countries such as Afghanistan. Three-in-four Canadians now agree we should accept more newcomers from parts of the world experiencing major conflicts—twice the proportion that held that view 20 years ago.

This is remarkable at a time when nationalism, populism, and anti-immigrant sentiment are on the rise globally. But while Canada has been more welcoming than most nations, support for immigration in this country cannot be taken for granted. As the country wrestles with rising inflation, housing affordability, a strained health-care system, and an increasingly toxic political environment, support for immigration could erode.

Our research shows concerns about immigration have to do with how quickly newcomers integrate into Canadian society. Canadians are fairly evenly divided as to whether there are too many immigrants coming to Canada who are not adopting our values. But the proportion who disagree has also never been as high as it is today. Indeed, the survey found nine in 10 of us now see multiculturalism as important to Canadian identity, and a steadily growing majority of Canadians are rejecting the attitude that Canada accepts too many immigrants from racialized cultures.

Our research also provided some interesting regional insights. In Quebec, where immigration was a campaign issue in the provincial election, our research confirmed Quebecers are no less supportive of immigration and no less welcoming of refugees than Canadians elsewhere in the country. Quebecers are especially sensitive to potential threats to language and culture, but like other Canadians, Quebecers recognize the benefits immigration brings to our economy and society.

The insights into Canadians’ attitudes toward immigration and immigrants are invaluable at this juncture in our history. Our population is aging, our work forces shrinking, the demand for skilled labour growing more acute, and our birth rate is at its lowest in more than 100 years. This is creating demographic pressure we must address if we want to sustain the quality of life we’ve grown accustomed to and want a prosperous future for the country’s next generations. Immigration is the only way we can address the growing demographic and economic pressures we’re facing. The support Canadians show for immigration should provide our elected leaders with the political courage required to invest in attracting more newcomers to Canada.

Naturally, challenges remain. We do not always deliver on the promises we make to newcomers. Many face barriers—whether in the form of prejudice, or red tape—as they try to put the skills they bring with them to work. Immigrants, and especially the children of immigrants, expect not only public attitudes to change, but also the policies and practices of public institutions, such as the health-care system and our police forces.

The fact remains that these challenges are much more likely to be met when the public is solidly onside—meaning we can face them together. We are no utopia. But whatever issues may divide Canadians today, immigration is not one of them. In this sense, the country has never been more united. That’s an advantage and an opportunity that we, as a country, can’t afford to ignore—our economic future depends on it.

Michael Adams is the founder and president of the Environics Institute for Survey Research. Lisa Lalande is the CEO of Century Initiativea non-partisan charity aimed at increasing Canada’s population to 100 million by 2100.

Source: New immigration targets essential for Canada’s economic prosperity 

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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