The Political Impact of Increased Diversity: What the Census Shows

The 2021 census highlights the growth in immigrants, visible and religious minorities. The political impact will continue to play out at the riding level, further reinforcing political party efforts to attract voters from these groups. This article provides a detailed analysis of diversity at the riding level, with the percentage of visible minorities and key demographic and socio-economic characteristics of these ridings.

Figure 1 contrasts immigrants, non-founding ethnic ancestry or origin, visible and religious minorities by their percentage in ridings, highlighting the large number of ridings with significant population shares of each group.

Figure 2 highlights the growth of ridings where visible minorities form a significant share of the population. The number of ridings in which visible minorities form a majority of the population has increased from one in ten (33) in 2011 to close to one in six (51), reflecting high and increasing levels of immigration. Moreover, the number of ridings with significant numbers of visible minorities (20 to 50 percent) has also increased significantly, reflecting ongoing immigration to smaller urban and suburban centres.

While the number of ridings with between five and 20 percent visible minorities has stayed relatively constant, the percentage of visible minorities has increased by five percent or more in about half of these ridings.

In contrast, there are only four ridings in which religious minorities form the majority, an increase of two compared to 2011, with 54 ridings in which religious minorities are between 20 and 50 percent, an increase of 12 compared to 2011.

Figure 3 shows ridings with a majority of visible minorities by province, with Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta having the greatest share and increase compared to the 2016 census. These are all ridings where one can expect all parties to run visible minority candidates, most likely from the largest visible minority group in the riding.

However, virtually all provinces have an increased number of ridings with between 20 and 50 percent visible minorities, and thus ridings where visible minorities are a significant constituency.

Figure 4 provides the breakdown by visible minority group, with only South Asians and Chinese being a majority of the population (five ridings out of 51 – Brampton East and West, Surrey-Newton for South Asians, Markham-Unionville and Richmond Centre for Chinese), highlighting that most visible minority majority ridings have a mix of visible minority groups. All visible minority groups are present in ridings with between 5 and 20 percent, save Japanese.

Demographic and socioeconomic characteristics vary by percentage of visible minorities as shown in Figure 5.

Visible minority majority ridings are characterized by larger populations, moderate growth, high densities, a younger population, a higher percentage of religious minorities and a low percentage of Indigenous peoples, with the reverse generally being the case for ridings with less than 20 percent visible minorities, highlighting the differences between rural and urban Canada. The highest growth occurs in ridings with 20 to 50 percent visible minorities, ridings that are increasingly diverse. The percentage of religious minorities correlates with the percentage of visible minorities. There is no overall pattern with respect to official language (OL) minorities.

As one would expect, the higher the percentage of visible minorities, the higher the percentage of immigrants and conversely, the lower the percentage of citizens given residency and other requirements as shown in Figure 6. The period of immigration highlights the contrast between earlier waves of immigration, largely European in origin and in low visible minority ridings, and later waves, largely visible minority, with an impact across all ridings, particularly in the last five years and in ridings with lower overall percentage of visible minorities.

Figure 7 highlights educational attainment (trades and university degree, the percentage of married or common-law couples, household size, and whether residents form part of  multigenerational households, are in single-detached housing and the percentage of renters. Trades are more prevalent in ridings with fewer visible minorities and university diplomas more prevalent in ridings with more visible minorities. Women have higher rates of university degrees across all ridings.

Variations on marriage or common law between ridings are small. Household size directly relates to the percentage of visible minorities whereas the prevalence of single detached homes is inversely proportional. Renting is more prevalent in ridings with between 20 and 70 percent visible minorities.

Figure 8 highlights median total after tax income, the percentage of government transfers and income along with participation and unemployment rates. In general, ridings with between 20 and 50 percent have the strongest economic outcomes save for unemployment rates which are lowest in ridings with fewer visible minorities. Outcomes for women are worse overall except with respect to unemployment in ridings with less than 20 percent visible minorities.

Turning to the political aspect and voter targeting, Figure 9 highlights the number of ridings where a visible minority group forms more than 10 percent of the population, broken down by province, again demonstrating the extent to which political parties need to address specific group concerns. Only Latin American, Korean and Japanese have no ridings with ten percent or more of the population; however, with a threshold of five percent, only Japanese have no ridings of significant concentration. Regionally, there are no ridings in Atlantic Canada and the North with one visible minority group forming 10 percent of the population but six ridings where one group forms more than five percent: three South Asian, two Black and one Chinese.

Figure 10 highlights the 190 ridings where a religious minority forms more than five percent of the population as a threshold of ten percent would exclude Buddhist and Indigenous spirituality. Most groups are concentrated in a number of ridings, with Muslims dispersed across the greatest number of ridings.

Figure 11 breaks down the 2021 election results, highlighting the relative strength of the Liberals and NDP in visible minority majority urban ridings and the relative strength of the Conservatives in ridings with between five and twenty percent visible minorities. Compared to the 2015 election, the biggest change was the increase in the relative share of NDP MPs in visible minority majority ridings and the Conservative and Bloc relative share increase in ridings with between 20 to 50 percent visible minorities. These ridings can flip; in 2011, the Conservatives won a majority of ridings with more than 50 percent visible minorities.

Concluding observations

All parties have candidate selection, policy and other electoral strategies to engage these communities and the ongoing increase in the number of visible minority candidates and MPs reflects these strategies. Substantively, there are no major differences in attitudes between immigrants and non-immigrants across a range of immigration-related issues.

While some visible minority groups have a tendency to vote for a particular political party, there is political diversity in all groups resulting in no party ignoring any group. Earlier waves of immigrants, mainly European origin, tend to lean Conservative compared to more recent waves, mainly visible minority, tend to lean Liberal.

Visible minority and immigrant groups are affected by perceived singling out or dog whistles, as the Conservatives learned to their cost in 2015, with the “barbaric cultural practices” tip line and the strength of the Liberal language “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian” in response to the Conservative government’s citizenship revocation provision of C-24. Immigration-specific issues such as the ease of family reunification also play a role.

But in general, visible minority voters are more affected by overall campaign themes and issues, whether these be with respect to campaign tone, general concerns regarding the economy, housing, and healthcare, and largely follow the overall electoral trend at national and regional levels.

Riding characteristics impact upon voting patterns. Visible minority majority ridings have lower incomes and higher unemployment which generally play to left and left-of-centre parties. Similarly, larger family size and more multigenerational households in these ridings suggest that political parties target their messaging accordingly.

No major party is arguing against increased immigration, nor is any province except for Quebec. Public support is strong. Apart from administrative issues like backlogs and poor Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada service, debates and discussion focus more on the practicalities and impact of immigration on housing affordability, healthcare stresses and infrastructure gaps. More recent commentaries are focussing on these negative impacts but in a non-xenophobic manner. After all, these issues affect immigrants and non-immigrants alike, helping to reduce polarization.

Methodology:

All data is from the Census profile given that it provides riding-level data. Indicators were chosen based on their pertinence. Non-founding ethnic ancestry includes all groups save for English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Canadian, French and Indigenous (Census allows for multiple responses). Electoral results data is from Elections Canada.

Andrew Griffith is the author of “Because it’s 2015…” Implementing Diversity and InclusionMulticulturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote and Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism and is a regular media commentator and blogger (Multiculturalism Meanderings). He is the former Director General for Citizenship and Multiculturalism and has worked for a variety of government departments in Canada and abroad and is a fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and Environics Institute. 

Source: The Political Impact of Increased Diversity: What the Census Shows

Liberal minister says Canada needs more immigration as targets get mixed reviews

Mixed reviews are from me and Ted McDonald of UNB:

As Canada plans to significantly ramp up its immigration levels in the coming years, some policy experts are worried about potential effects on health care, housing and the labour market.

But Immigration Minister Sean Fraser insists that Canada needs more newcomers to address labour shortages and demographic changes that threaten the country’s future.

“If we don’t continue to increase our immigration ambition and bring more working-age population and young families into this country, our questions will not be about labour shortages, generations from now,” Fraser said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“They’re going to be about whether we can afford schools and hospitals.”

In November, the federal Liberal government announced a new immigration plan that would see Canada welcome 500,000 immigrants per year by 2025.

A record-breaking 431,645 people became permanent residents in 2022.

The new immigration rates will be substantially higher than rates in similar countries, such as Australia, said University of New Brunswick political science professor Ted McDonald.

That’s not a bad thing in itself, he said. But in his view, raising immigration levels isn’t the right way to address current labour shortages.

“I think the policy would make more sense if it’s aligned with what are seen as underlying structural labour market shortages that are going to persist,” McDonald said.

At the same, he said one justification for immigration is clear: Canada has a declining birthrate.

According to Statistics Canada, the country’s birthrate fell to a record low of an average of 1.4 children per woman in 2020. That’s well below the 2.1 rate needed to maintain a population without immigration.

That doesn’t stop others from worrying about how more newcomers could put a strain on other perennial issues such as housing affordability and health care.

“There’s no assessment that I have seen of the impact of these targets on housing affordability and availability, no assessment of these targets in terms of additional pressures on health care,” said Andrew Griffith, a former high-ranking official at Immigration and Citizenship Canada.

But Fraser said that many of the new permanent residents already live in Canada. For example, 157,000 international students became permanent residents in 2021.

“It’s not as though there are half a million people coming to Canada who are not already here,” the minister said.

He said changes are also coming to the Express Entry system in the spring so that immigrants can be selected based on the sector and region in Canada they’re heading to.

That will help alleviate some of the strain on things like health care and housing, he said.

The ongoing debate on whether the new targets are too ambitious is also coinciding with heightened scrutiny regarding what — or who — is influencing government policy.

Radio-Canada reported last week that two sources within Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said McKinsey & Company’s influence on immigration policy has grown in recent years.

A government response to a Conservative MP’s written question, which was tabled in the House of Commons in December, says the department has not recently awarded any contracts to the consulting firm — at least, not during the timeframe the MP asked about, which was from March 2021 until October 2022.

And during the interview Thursday, Fraser said McKinsey has had no role to play in the new immigration levels plan.

“I’m not being influenced by them,” Fraser said.

“This is something that I’ve arrived at independently.”

The minister said he came to the decision regarding the immigration plan on the advice of department officials. He said he also took into consideration what he’s heard from different organizations, stakeholders, and provincial and territorial leaders.

Policy experts often worry about the outsized influence stakeholders can have on government policies, since interest groups lobby the government to implement policies that are in line with their priorities, and some are more powerful than others.

Business groups in Canada have seen ongoing labour shortages as a major concern, and they have called on the government to help fill vacancies.

Following the announcement of the new plan, the Business Council of Canada applauded the targets in a press release, saying that “an economy that is chronically short of workers cannot achieve its potential.”

Griffith said that in his opinion, the current government is “fairly responsive to the pressures of stakeholders,” whether they are business groups or organizations that work with immigrants.

While the interests of stakeholders can sometimes align with what is actually good policy, McDonald said stakeholder groups have “vested interests.”

“We have to be aware of where the advocacy is coming from, and not being naïve about it,” he said.

Source: Liberal minister says Canada needs more immigration as targets get mixed reviews

2022 in review and looking ahead: immigration and related issues

2022 was characterized, in many ways, by the failure of governments to anticipate and respond to changed circumstances. Whether it be backlogs in immigration, citizenship and passports, or the overall failure of governments to address pressures on housing, healthcare and infrastructure, virtually every level of government failed to some extent.

What has been encouraging has been greater public commentary on the need for governments to address these pressures (externalities) even if the most governments remain in denial or at least silent, with the current approach, across all governments save Quebec, being the “more the merrier,” both permanent and temporary residents.

As I recently argued, the government’s Annual Report on Immigration needs to include a discussion of these externalities as well as including temporary residents in its planning and targets.

I have continued my monthly updates of immigration-related programs and have been pleased to work with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship in making some of this data more easily accessible. Summary of the recovery across programs below, comparing January-October 2022 with full year 2018, showing already well ahead of 2018 in most programs.

Issues I expect to continue following are foreign interference by governments like China, Iran and Russia, exploitation of international students and ill-guided policies that make this more-and-more a lower-skilled immigration stream, the contrast between Ukrainian refugees and others, the ongoing federal-provincial immigration arguments over relative shares, and, of course, the evolution of public opinion on immigration-related issues.

It will also be interesting to see whether or not the the proposed class action lawsuit by Black public servants is allowed to proceed along with the complaint to the United Nations Commission for Human Rights. Whenever I look at the numbers (and will do so again in 2023), Black representation is relatively better than South Asian, Chinese, and Filipino for the EX category, and better than all other groups overall, although there are significant differences among the different occupations. 

The other broader development to watch will be the expected revision of the Employment Equity Act, an act that has, IMO, facilitated and resulted in increased diversity among designated groups.

Citizenship will remain a focus and I am still waiting for the revised citizenship study guide to be released (under the fourth immigration minister!). It will also be interesting to see if the government fulfills its campaign commitment in both the 2019 and 2021 elections to eliminate citizenship fees (that were increased 5 fold by the previous government). Given the current financial pressures, will be interesting to see if the government walks that commitment back, implement it in the forthcoming budget, or do nothing and assume no one will notice (not placing any bets but inaction is the most likely outcome).

I have requested a number of citizenship Census specialized data sets to allow me to update and track change compared to 2016, looking at variety of socioeconomic factors and outcomes.

Lastly, some good news, the complete switch of attitude among political leaders in Hérouxville, the small town that convulsed Quebec with its 2007 xenophobic code of conduct for immigrants, to welcoming immigrants given demographics. Overtime, will likely have broader reverberations and somewhat weaken the differences between Montreal and the regions.

Lastly, on a personal note, we became grandparents for the first time, welcoming a new life into our family.

Best wishes for the holidays and will restart up in January.

Article roundup

Citizenship 

Is birth tourism about to return now that travel restrictions have been lifted (Policy Options, 2022), my annual update, showing a further decline compared to pre-pandemic numbers, given the legacy of Canadian travel and Chinese government restrictions.

Disconnect between political priorities and service delivery (The Hill Times, 2022), commentary on a “missing link” between policy and service delivery/implementation.

Passport delays risk undermining our trust in government (The Star, 2022), op-ed on the passport delivery fiasco.

Immigration 

Has immigration become a third rail in Canadian politics? (Policy Options, 2022), my latest, arguing for improvements in the annual levels plan to incorporate temporary workers and include considerations of the externalities of housing, healthcare and infrastructure impacts.

Public opinion on migration could sour amid food insecurity and climate change (Policy Options, 2022), This commentary was developed in the context of a Ditchley conference on food insecurity.

How the government used the pandemic to sharply increase immigration (Policy Options, 2022) My analysis of the government’s actions.

Diversity and Employment Equity

Do MPs represent Canada’s diversity? (Policy Options, 2022) Written jointly with Jerome Black, this analysis confirmed ongoing increases in political representation.

Forthcoming articles early in the new year will look at the political impact of increased diversity at the federal riding level and a comparison of provincial government political representation for the last two provincial elections.

Is birth tourism about to return now that travel restrictions have been lifted?

My annual update:

COVID-19 continues to provide the perfect natural experiment to assess the extent of “birth tourism” – when women visit Canada for the purpose of giving birth here and thus obtaining Canadian citizenship for their child. Two years in, the data shows a decrease of almost eight per cent, compared to 2020-21 and almost 52 per cent compared to the pre-pandemic 2016-20 average, in the number of “non-resident self-pay” births in Canada.

As Figure 1 indicates, there was a steady increase of non-resident births prior to the pandemic. But after COVID-related travel restrictions were implemented in 2020, there was a sharp drop, with no recovery in 2021. This provides a very good indication of the extent of birth tourism in Canada. Now that the restrictions are loosening and travel is once again opening up, it’s time for the federal government to revisit its policy on non-resident births and Canadian citizenship.

https://e.infogram.com/1bffaa89-7b27-4768-acdd-860d46ab420b?parent_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpolicyoptions.irpp.org%2Fmagazines%2Fdecember-2022%2Fbirth-tourism-may-rise-again%2F%3Futm_source%3DPolicy%2BOptions%2BNewsletter%26utm_campaign%3D87f90b7127-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2022_02_14_05_26_COPY_01%26utm_medium%3Demail%26utm_term%3D0_26f66e24ce-87f90b7127-104024581%26mc_cid%3D87f90b7127%26mc_eid%3D86cabdc518&src=embed#async_embed

The decline to 2,245 in 2021 from 2,433 in 2020 occurred in all provinces save Quebec, which remained relatively stable (Table 1). The decline was particularly notable in British Columbia, where most birth tourists pre-pandemic were from China – a country most affected by travel restrictions. The drop is in stark contrast to steady increases over the previous five-year period.

https://e.infogram.com/c85b1f61-f842-4a62-adbb-c69b1c8964af?parent_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpolicyoptions.irpp.org%2Fmagazines%2Fdecember-2022%2Fbirth-tourism-may-rise-again%2F%3Futm_source%3DPolicy%2BOptions%2BNewsletter%26utm_campaign%3D87f90b7127-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2022_02_14_05_26_COPY_01%26utm_medium%3Demail%26utm_term%3D0_26f66e24ce-87f90b7127-104024581%26mc_cid%3D87f90b7127%26mc_eid%3D86cabdc518&src=embed#async_embed

A similar decline in visitor visas and birth tourists has been noted in the United States.

The percentage of non-resident births in Canada fell from slightly less than two per cent of total births in 2019 to 0.7 per cent in 2020 and has remained at that level. Given increased immigration, the percentage of non-resident births also fell during the same period.

As noted in previous articles, the non-resident self-pay code that is the basis for the analysis is broader than that of women who arrive on visitor visas. It includes international students, about half of whom are covered by provincial health plans, and other temporary residents. Visitor visas recovered to only 57 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in 2021-22 while visas for temporary workers have more than recovered from pre-pandemic levels. Visitor visas for Chinese nationals, one of the major groups, have recovered to only 21 per cent of former levels compared to 57 per cent of previous levels for all visitor visas. Chinese government travel-related restrictions are likely a significant factor in the reduced number.

Table 2 provides a hospital-level view of the impact of COVID, contrasting pre- and post-pandemic years in terms of non-resident and total births for the 10 hospitals with the largest percentage of non-resident births. Non-resident births continued to decline in most hospitals. British Columbia’s Richmond Hospital – the epicentre of birth tourism with its supportive “cottage industry” of “birth hotels” – has been the hardest hit. There was a decrease of 95.6 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels.

https://e.infogram.com/d4121dd0-70ad-48bc-ba08-1b02f02ecbe6?parent_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpolicyoptions.irpp.org%2Fmagazines%2Fdecember-2022%2Fbirth-tourism-may-rise-again%2F%3Futm_source%3DPolicy%2BOptions%2BNewsletter%26utm_campaign%3D87f90b7127-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2022_02_14_05_26_COPY_01%26utm_medium%3Demail%26utm_term%3D0_26f66e24ce-87f90b7127-104024581%26mc_cid%3D87f90b7127%26mc_eid%3D86cabdc518&src=embed#async_embed

This suggests that my initial estimate from 2018 that about 50 per cent of non-resident births were due to birth tourism was conservative, and that the percentage of “tourism births” is about one per cent of all births (or about 0.4 per cent of current immigration levels).

Three federal immigration ministers later, the government has not have followed up on its 2018 commitment to “better understand the extent of this practice as well as its impacts” following the first release of the Canadian Institute for Health Information numbers and related media attention. The 2021-22 decline understandably reduces political interest and pressure in addressing the issue, particularly at a time of government and stakeholder support of increased immigration, as the proportion on “non-resident” self-pay is only about 0.5 per cent of permanent resident admissions, having fallen from 1.7 per cent pre-pandemic.

Given the current focus on increased immigration, it is highly unlikely that the government will take action. The numbers are very small compared to the planned level of 500,000 immigrants to Canada in 2025 and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s current policy and operational challenges. However, given that visitor visas have largely reverted to pre-pandemic levels in 2022, growth in birth tourism can be expected in future years.

The government should address the policy deficit in this area. There appears to be public support for some action. A 2019 Angus Reid survey indicated that the vast majority of Canadians would support removing birthright citizenship for children born to women on visitor visas.

The use of CIHI data to quantify the extent of birth tourism, albeit approximately, highlights the potential in greater linkages between immigration and health data. With respect to birth tourism, the ability to distinguish between non-resident births for visitors, international students and temporary workers would provide greater precision on the extent of the practice.

It would also allow for more informed analysis and understanding of the health outcomes of immigrants and would identify opportunities for improvement.

The policy and operational questions remain as to whether the extent of birth tourism warrants an amendment to the Citizenship Act, visa restrictions on women intending to give birth in Canada, or other administrative and regulatory measures to curtail the practice. Because visa restrictions would be difficult to administer, and because regional administrative and regulatory measures may well encourage hospital and jurisdiction “shopping,” the “cleanest” approach would be an amendment to the Citizenship Act that would make Canadian citizenship dependent on one parent being a citizen or permanent resident, comparable to the situation in Australia.

A note on methodology 

The data is from the CIHIs Discharge Abstract Database, more specifically the responsible for funding program (RRFP) non-resident self-pay” category, as well as totals for hospital deliveries. The RRFP data include temporary residents on visitor visas, international students, foreign workers and visiting Canadian citizens, and permanent residents. While Quebec has a slightly different coding system, CIHI ensures its data is comparable. 

Health coverage for international students varies by provinces, but most are covered by provincial health plans. This is not the case in Manitoba and Ontario, and for some students in Quebec whose country of origin does not have a social security agreement with Quebec. The pre-pandemic baseline is the five-year average 2016-20.

Mackenzie Health’s Woman and Child program moved from Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital to Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital when it opened to the community in June 2021.

Source: Is birth tourism about to return now that travel restrictions have been lifted?

Public opinion on migration could sour amid food insecurity and climate change

My latest:

The inter-related pressures of food insecurity and climate change will increase migration pressures within and between countries, as Parag Khanna argues in his book, Move. While this is mainly with respect to the Global South, even more temperate zones are being affected as recent extreme weather events, such as storms and flooding in developed and developingcountries alike, have demonstrated. Managing these pressures could be very difficult.

From an immigration perspective, there are some realities that need to be considered. First, increased political and social polarization – driven by social media and political tactics at both national and international levels – is resulting in greater misinformation and disinformation.

A potential tie-in is the increased economic and social inequality within countries and the ongoing reality that in many countries, immigration is divisive politically. While Canada may be a rare exception to that divisiveness, irregular arrivals rather than more managed immigration tend to provoke more negative public reactions.

Migration policies and programs of the Global North are largely designed for the benefit of receiving countries, with little to no attention paid to the needs of sending countries and potential migrants. Developed countries largely focus on their skilled labour-force needs, thus contributing to a “brain drain” for sending countries while the developed countries also benefit from getting lower-skilled migrants for less attractive work. Health care is but one example where developed countries encourage migration of skilled doctors and nurses, and less-skilled personal support workers.

Public opinion generally but not exclusively favours more “familiar” migrants with perceived shared values. This has recently been seen in the case of Ukrainian refugees in contrast to other groups from places such as Syria. While consistency of treatment for refugees – wherever they come from – is the ideal, the political reality is more complex as governments respond to pressures from specific constituencies and interest groups.

There is also generally greater public support for economic immigrants, who contribute directly to the economy, than for refugees and asylum-seekers, because the benefits of the former are more clearly perceived.

Canada’s immunity to anti-immigration rhetoric reflects our relative geographic isolation, selective immigration policies and our political system. All of these make it impossible to win elections without the support of immigrant-origin citizens.

As we have seen in earlier incidents of migrant ships arriving off our coasts and the ongoing debates over irregular arrivals at the Roxham Road crossing in Quebec, Canadians react negatively when immigration is perceived as unmanaged and migrants appear to exploit loopholes, with exceptions for perceived hardship cases.

The government’s ambitious immigration targets (increasing from 341,000 pre-pandemic to 500,000 by 2025) enjoy broad support among stakeholders and have so far attracted little to no criticism by mainstream political parties. (Quebec, which selects its economic immigrants, is far more restrictive.)

The government’s ability (arguably inability) to deliver on its targets has become an issue with large backlogs across all immigration programs. These pressures will increase in the event of large-scale migration due to food insecurity and climate change. More important, Canadian public opinion is likely to sour, as we have seen in other countries.

There are ways that both operational and public opinion pressures could be managed. These include providing greater support to countries with food insecurity and climate change issues to reduce pressures on receiving countries. While it is not possible to reduce long-term pressures, the impact can be made more gradual, allowing more time to prepare and increase capacity.

Given that the key to public support is the perception that migration flows are being properly managed, migration and refugee flows need to have orderly processes and procedures. This is clearly easier for less politically polarized countries such as Canada. But even Canada can expect its border control and immigration regimes to be tested more and more as migration pressures increase and geography becomes a less effective barrier.

Linking immigration to a country’s interests (for example: labour shortages) will be more powerful than general humanitarian messaging. Policies and programs that triage food and climate refugees based upon their ability to contribute to the receiving country’s economy and society may be better received than those without such selection criteria.

Stories that focus on individual situations have greater influence than more overall analysis for the public. For example, the death of the young Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi galvanized support for accepting more refugees during the 2015 Canadian election. More recently, the death of Iranian Mahsa Aminiin the custody of that country’s “morality police” galvanized protests in and outside Iran.

Given that the response to individual stories is short-term, broader evidence and analysis are needed for longer-term public opinion support.

Globally, longer-term migration pressures are similar to climate change in terms of the political challenges at national and international levels. However, the Global Compact for Migration provides only a framework in contrast to the legally binding Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The longer history of global and national environmental debates and negotiations has resulted in greater political consensus about the need for international co-operation to address climate change.

Issues related to climate change are largely economic in terms of the changes required while international migration is as much about more complex social change as it is about simple economic change. We see this in various debates over immigration and national values.

Current narratives have focused on economic benefits of immigration. Shifting the focus toward a greater balance between sending and receiving countries will be extremely difficult because of polarized public opinion and politics.

Source: Public opinion on migration could sour amid food insecurity and climate change

Feds announce four new passport service sites as backlog continues

https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2063068227573

Good service improvement move but will have limited impact on backlog. That being said, Service Canada data indicates progress compared to earlier months, although the number of applications is still greater than the number of passports issued.

Hopefully, ESDC/Service Canada and IRCC will publish monthly passport stats (applications and issued) on opendata as per other immigration and citizenship stats:

The federal government is adding new passport service locations across Canada as a backlog in processing applications continues.

Social Development Minister Karina Gould announced Wednesday that people can now apply for and pick up passports at Service Canada centres in Red Deer, Alta., Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Trois-Rivières, Que., and Charlottetown, P.E.I.

That’s on top of five new locations added in July, and Gould expects to bring another seven to nine locations into the program soon.

“I think this is a really important and long-overdue change,” she said in an interview. “Those of us who live in more urban areas, we don’t realize that we’re so lucky to be close to a passport office.”

The additions should make it easier for people outside large centres to access services and ease stress on offices in regional hubs, she added.

No new federal money was required to make the change, Gould said. Resources come out of a revolving fund made up of passport fees. 

Gould said the current crisis and complaints over long wait times have accelerated the work but she was already looking at bringing passport services to more locations before the backlog.

She visited Sault Ste. Marie in April, before media began reporting on complaints over wait times. The local Liberal MP, Terry Sheehan, told Gould that people in the Sault had to drive seven or eight hours to Thunder Bay or Toronto to visit a passport office in person. 

Until Wednesday, there was no passport office on Prince Edward Island.

“So I was starting to already look at who is not close, and how can we fix this,” she said. “And then it became that much more acute.” 

Nearly 1.1 million applications for new and renewed passports have been filed since April as pandemic restrictions loosen and Canadians resume travelling. 

More than one-quarter of those hadn’t yet been processed as of early August.

Government statistics show the system is starting to catch up with demand, as the gulf between the number of passport applications each month versus the number of passports issued is getting smaller. 

Call centre wait times have gone down significantly and “triage measures” were implemented at 17 passport offices to mitigate in-person headaches.

Gould said 442 new employees were hired so far this summer and 300 are already trained and working.

But a large backlog remains.

In the first week of August, the number of passports issued within 40 business days of an application fell to 72 per cent from 81 per cent the week before.

That is largely because of mailed applications.

During the first week of August, passports from in-person applications were issued within the government’s 10-day service standard 95 per cent of the time, a rate that has remained steady throughout the summer.

For mailed applications the service standard of 20 days was met only 40 per cent of the time in early August, down from 53 per cent in late July. The government also warns it can take more than 13 weeks to get your passport by mail.

The overall numbers aren’t materially better than in June, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was forced to respond to growing complaints and called the system’s performance “unacceptable.” 

The week of June 20, 76 per cent of passports were issued within 40 business days.

The processing times also don’t take into account the wait to get an in-person appointment and there are only a limited number of walk-ins available.

Proof of upcoming travel is required to get service within two months at offices with 10-day processing times, including those announced Wednesday.

Urgent services for people who can prove they need a passport within 48 hours are only available in bigger urban centres — Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Gatineau, Que., and Quebec City.

As the backlash over the wait times continues, some reports suggest Canadians are making “fake” travel plans to show to passport officers, then cancelling their flights once their application is in the queue. 

Gould said she’s not aware of this being a “widespread issue” but she has heard about it anecdotally. “I strongly discourage Canadians to do that. It’s unfair, it’s unkind and it’s unnecessary,” she said. 

Gould said at the morning press conference that the government failed to predict to what extent demand would sharply spike earlier this year. She insisted an unexpected glut of mailed-in applications is the main culprit in the passport delays.

Although she wouldn’t comment on the specifics of its deliberations, she said a cabinet committee stood up earlier this year — the Task Force on Services to Canadians — is looking at how to make sure that services under federal jurisdiction are being delivered in “a timely and effective way” that takes the toll of the pandemic into account.

Source: Feds announce four new passport service sites as backlog continues

Canadian employers are ramping up their search for temporary foreign workers amid labour crunch

Of note. My concerns regarding productivity implications cited:

Canadian employers are moving to fill more jobs with temporary foreign workers, as they face a sustained labour shortage and the lowest unemployment rate in decades.

In the first three months of 2022, employers received approval from the federal government to fill about 44,200 positions through the TFW program, according to a Globe analysis of figures from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). That was the most in at least five years, and 73 per cent higher than the quarterly average from 2017 to 2021.

As usual, farms were the biggest source of labour demand. Nearly half of the approvals in the first quarter were for general farm workers. Jealous Fruits Ltd., a large cherry producer in Kelowna, B.C., was authorized to fill roughly 640 roles, the most of any employer.

The restaurant industry is turning more to foreign labour as well. The second most in-demand workers in the quarter were cooks, at 2,100 positions, almost double the previous quarter. Companies were also permitted to hire nearly 1,700 food-service supervisors, who often work for franchisees of fast-food chains, such as McDonald’s Corp.

The use of foreign labour is poised to rise even more.

In April, the federal Liberals overhauled the TFW program, largely to give companies more access to low-wage workers from abroad. And employers still have plenty of jobs to fill: At last count, they were recruiting for about one million positions.

Companies say the pool of domestic workers is severely constrained. As of July, Canada’s unemployment rate had ebbed to 4.9 per cent – the lowest in more than four decades of data.

The TFW expansion was cheered by business lobby groups. But the move was panned by labour advocates and many economists. The TFW program has been dogged by controversy in past years over concerns about unpaid wages, unsafe living conditions for migrants and companies passing over Canadian job candidates. Critics also say it shields employers from the need to raise wages for domestic workers or make investments that improve the country’s languishing productivity (meaning its economic output per hour worked).

“How’s this really helping productivity?” asked Andrew Griffith, a former director-general at the federal immigration department. “The government is making it easier for them to bring in more workers and just keep doing the same thing with more labour, rather than trying to really invest in productivity.”

To hire through the TFW program, an employer must submit a Labour Market Impact Assessment to the federal government, demonstrating that it can’t find local workers to fill positions. Once the government approves the roles, foreign workers must get the required permits to begin their employment in Canada. The quarterly IRCC figures refer to approved positions, rather than workers with permits.

Companies are inclined to fill whatever positions have been approved, said Meika Lalonde, an immigration lawyer in Vancouver. “It’s administratively burdensome” for employers to apply, she said, and they also pay a filing fee of $1,000 for every position requested.

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. has ramped up its use of foreign labour, chief executive officer Michael McCain told analysts on a call last week. And Recipe Unlimited Corp., which owns several restaurant chains, including Swiss Chalet, Harvey’s and the Keg, is helping franchisees use the TFW program, CEO Frank Hennessey said on an Aug. 3 investor call.

At the end of 2021, there were roughly 82,000 foreign workers with TFW permits, the most since 2014, when the Harper government tightened access to the program following a string of controversies. Companies rely more on the International Mobility Program – which was hived off from the TFW program in the 2014 overhaul – to recruit temporary foreign labour.

The IMP includes a range of foreign workers, such as company transfers from abroad and those with postgraduate work permits. Notably, companies do not need to file LMIAs to hire through the program. At the end of 2021, there were more than 695,000 people with IMP permits.

International students have become another major source of labour supply. The number of international students with T4 earnings – that is, employment income – has soared to 354,000 in 2019, from 22,000 in 2000, according to Statistics Canada.

Source: Canadian employers are ramping up their search for temporary foreign workers amid labour crunch

Griffith: Passport delays risk undermining our trust in government

Interesting to see the reaction on Twitter to my op-ed in The Star. Most reaction to anything I have written over the past 10 years. A real mix. Beyond the usual Trudeau or Conservative derangement syndromes, some of the themes that emerged:

  • Interest in and support for the analysis and background
  • People have personal responsibility to renew in time rather than expecting government to ramp up quickly to meet demand
  • Not important compared to healthcare wait times, war in Ukraine, SCOTUS decision on abortion etc
  • Generalized distrust of media coverage

With some of the comments, clearly people reacted to the tweet or other comments rather than reading the op-ed (I have also been guilty of doing the same).

The depth and breadth of reactions, along of course with general media coverage, indicates the extent to which wait times and delays have captured public attention. But of course, this is very much a “first world” problem compared to the more fundamental short and longer term challenges facing Canada and the world:

Though the government anticipated that the relaxation of travel restrictions would mean long waits and delays in passport issuance, it neglected to act on the knowledge. This lack of attention to service delivery risks undermining overall trust in government.

Part of the reason for the government’s failure to ramp up capacity for the pent-up demand post-pandemic is the complexity of interdepartmental roles. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has overall policy and program responsibility; Service Canada is responsible for processing and service delivery; and Global Affairs Canada is responsible for international delivery, following the 2013 transfer of the passport program from Global Affairs to IRCC.

Service Canada has evolved from initially providing a limited receiving agent function (verification of passport applications at a number of locations) to being responsible for all in-person passport offices and passport processing centres.

As Service Canada’s responsibilities increased, co-ordination and accountability issues became more apparent. The 2020 evaluation of the IRCC passport program identified the need to “review and clarify departmental accountabilities and responsibilities for the Passport Program, as well as reconfirm decision-making authorities and governance processes to effectively support program management and delivery.” Given the pandemic, it is unlikely that this and other recommendations were fully acted upon.

So while IRCC, in its 2022-23 departmental plan, anticipated increased passport demand as travel restrictions were relaxed and Canadians resumed travel — “Forecasts predict that a recovery to pre-COVID-19 demand will begin in Spring of 2022” — this analysis was not acted upon by Service Canada, resulting in the delays we are seeing today.

Analysis by others confirms that while demand has increased significantly, it remains only about 55 per cent of pre-pandemic demand, highlighting the degree that Service Canada has failed to provide timely service.

Other consequences of these unclear accountabilities and responsibilities, along with weak management, include the absence of regularly published passport data on the open government portal website (also flagged in the 2020 IRCC evaluation), and the fact that the last Passport Canada annual report dates from 2017-18. The departmental plans of both IRCC and Employment and Social Development Canada have minimal details on the passport program.

While attention has understandably been placed on Service Canada as the public face of the delays, more attention needs to be placed on IRCC for failing to exercise policy and program oversight for passports. Unfortunately, this adds to IRCC management failings — as the large backlogs in temporary and permanent immigration, along with citizenship, attest.

These short-term problems cast doubt on the ability of IRCC and Service Canada to deliver on current passport modernization initiatives, particularly a new passport issuance platform to replace the current IT infrastructure and online applications. Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Karina Gould has floated a longer-term goal of issuing “passports to people as they get their citizenship.” It’s a meaningful and overdue improvement, but highly improbable given the complexity of the IRCC/Service Canada relationship.

Passport delays are not the only government implementation problems being encountered by Canadians. Airport customs and screening delays are a related element impacting Canadians wishing to travel again, whether to see loved ones or to discover the world.

Despite the success of pandemic financial measures and vaccination efforts, these various delays are adding to a general sense of government not being able to deliver on its core responsibilities. 

This risks further undermining trust in government and public institutions. The government needs to focus as much on service delivery and implementation aspects as on policy and program development.

Source: Passport delays risk undermining our trust in government

Federal government scrambles to address hordes of passport applicants at overwhelmed offices

Ongoing story. Short-term measures sensible but this was anticipated and should not have happened (quoted in article):

Families Minister Karina Gould, the minister responsible for passport services, said Thursday the government is adding more staff on the ground to help triage hours-long lineups at many passport offices as tens of thousands of people look to get their hands on travel documents.

The strategy shift comes as policy experts, and the government’s Conservative critics, say the situation should never have been allowed to get so dire when it was obvious to many that there’d be a strong interest in travel as the pandemic receded.

Gould said, after reports of chaos at some passport offices in the Montreal area this week, Service Canada is deploying managers to walk the lineups that have popped up at some offices.

These managers will speak to would-be travellers about their applications before they get to a customer service agent — a system that will help staff identify people who are most in need of a passport.

People who require a passport for travel in the next 12, 24 and 36 hours will get priority service while others will be told to come back at another time, Gould said.

The minister said, after the first day it was in place in Montreal, the process “didn’t go as smoothly, quite frankly, as we had hoped, but today we’re seeing much better progress.”

While Gould reported “progress,” the government website that tracks wait times was warning people to expect delays of at least six hours at busy sites like Montreal’s Guy-Favreau complex and Ottawa’s only passport office on Meadowlands Drive.

The minister said a similar process is being rolled out in Toronto Thursday and Vancouver-area offices will also have managers triaging passport applicants as of Monday.

Gould also said more passports will be printed in bulk at the Gatineau, Que. processing centre near Ottawa and ferried to other locations, which will take some of the stress off of smaller passport offices that don’t have large industrial printers to churn out hundreds of passports each day.

“We have received a large volume of passports. That doesn’t make the situation acceptable,” Gould said. “Canadians should never have to experience this.”

Bureaucrats warned government about passport onslaught

Andrew Griffith is a former director general with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and a former top official at Service Canada and the Privy Council Office.

In an interview with CBC News, Griffith said the government should never have allowed the situation to get to this point.

In Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s 2022-23 department plan, bureaucrats told the government there would almost certainly be a surge in passport applications as COVID-related travel restrictions were relaxed, Griffith said, and yet not enough was done to prepare passport offices for the onslaught of applicants.

In that department plan, which Griffith shared with CBC News, internal experts advised the government that “forecasts predict that a recovery to pre-COVID-19 demand will begin in spring of 2022, and that demand for passports will continue to increase over the next three years.”

Griffith said the passport situation is a clear instance of the government “neglecting its core responsibilities and not planning or preparing properly.”

“It’s very clear that the policy folks were aware that there would be an increase but it wasn’t connected to the operations side to make sure they were putting adequate preparations in place. It’s one of those unfortunate examples of where the government sort of tends to over promise and under deliver,” he said.

Speaking to CBC Radio’s The House in an interview that will air Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended the government’s record on the passport issue but vowed to do more to address an “unacceptable” situation.

Trudeau said the government did hire 600 more passport workers in January to support the existing workforce and it’s looking to add more in the coming weeks to clear mounting backlogs.

Griffith said subjecting thousands of Canadians to hours-long lineups risks undermining faith in government institutions. Canadians expect a certain level of service from the federal government and, when it fails to deliver, there’s an erosion of trust, he said.

“If they can’t get service in a timely manner, people become disillusioned. People are understandably frustrated about these things. I think it’s a really serious issue,” Griffith said.

‘This is a waiting nation’

Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre said Thursday, in a video posted to his social media channels, that Canadians deserve better than what has transpired at passport offices in recent weeks.

Poilievre is seen walking the lines that have formed at Ottawa’s passport office in the video, speaking to applicants who have camped out since 3 a.m. to get to an agent.

“What’s the deal folks? Well, this is a waiting nation. We are asked to wait for everything as sleepy bureaucrats and government gatekeepers stand in the way of you getting the basic services to which you are entitled — one of them is a passport,” Poilievre said.

“You see what’s happening here? The government is doing a lot of things poorly rather than a few things well.”

Source: Federal government scrambles to address hordes of passport applicants at overwhelmed offices

Immigration minister says he’s working on a faster path to permanence for temporary residents

Of note. Quoted in article as is CERC’s Rupa Banergee:

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser says his government is preparing to reinstate a program that would help to speed up the process of turning newcomers in Canada under temporary permits into permanent residents.

“We are looking right now at the best path forward to create a permanent pathway for temporary residents,” he told CBC’s The House in an interview airing this weekend.

A previous program called the “temporary resident to permanent resident pathway” — or TR to PR — was put in place last year for eight months after COVID-19 lockdowns shut the border to newcomers to prevent the spread of the virus.

It gave 90,000 essential workers, front-line health care workers and international students like Kushdeep Singh an accelerated path to permanent status.

Singh arrived in 2019 to study business administration at Norquest College in Edmonton. The temporary TR to PR program was announced just as he was preparing to write his final exams.

“When I first came to Canada I thought, ‘It’s gonna take almost about four years.’ Two years of my studies then two years of waiting for my PR application,” he said.

Instead, the approval came through in less than a year.

“And I told my mom. She was so, so happy,” he said. “I think she was happy because I know how hard she also worked for me, like all my journey since I came here and … how she also sacrifices, like sending me away from her, so that was a good moment.”

Clock is ticking

Fraser said the new program won’t be identical to the old one. He said he’s working under a tight 120-day timeline established in a motion approved by the Commons last month.

“That actually puts me on a clock to come up with a framework to establish this new permanent residency pathway, not just for international students, but also for temporary foreign workers,” he said.

“We’re in the depths of planning the policy so we can have a policy that’s not driven by a need to respond urgently in the face of an emergency, but actually to have a permanent pathway that provides a clear path for those seeking permanent residency who can enter Canada.”

Rupa Banerjee is a Canada research chair focusing on immigration issues at Toronto Metropolitan University. She said continuing to fast-track some people to permanent resident status is good policy.

“Focusing on individuals who are already in the country, that was an essential move at the time, when we had border closures and a lot of the pandemic restrictions,” she said during a separate panel discussion on The House.

“It also is really beneficial because we know that those who already have Canadian work experience, Canadian education, they do tend to fare better once they become permanent residents relative to those who come in one step straight from abroad.”

The federal government set a goal of accepting 432,000 newcomers this year alone. Fraser said his department is ahead of schedule, despite the pandemic and the unexpected pressures of working to resettle thousands of people fleeing conflict in both Afghanistan and Ukraine.

“This week we actually resettled the 200,000th permanent resident, more than a month and a half ahead of any year on record in Canada,” he said. “We are seeing similar trends across other lines of business like citizenship, like work permits, which in many instances are double the usual rate of processing.”

Too many pathways?

Despite the higher numbers, concerns remain about processing backlogs and what Andrew Griffith — a former senior bureaucrat with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada — calls an overly complicated immigration system with too many programs.

There are just so many pathways to immigrate to Canada. And I’m not convinced that anybody applying to Canada — or even the people who try to manage the program — that they have a full grip in terms of the program,” he said. “So there’s a real case, I think, to be made for simplification.”

Griffith argued the number of newcomers being accepted is less important than who is coming to Canada — what skills they bring and whether they can help this country improve productivity and economic growth.

Banerjee agreed that the number of newcomers is less important than who they are and whether there are services available to help them adjust to life here.

“The question is, can we actually integrate these individuals so that they can really contribute to the Canadian economy and also to Canadian society, more importantly?” he said.

Source: Immigration minister says he’s working on a faster path to permanence for temporary residents