Douglas Todd: Why Canadian wages never seem to go up

Good summary of concerns regarding low GDP per capita growth:
There is a startling admission buried in Chart #28 of the budget released this month by Canada’s Liberal government.
The chart in Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s budget quietly acknowledges a forecast by the OECD, a club of mostly wealthy nations, that Canada will likely come in dead last in the next four decades in regard to GDP growth per capita.The downplayed chart, one tiny aspect of the 304-page document, serves as a warning that individual Canadians, compared to the citizens of 39 other economically advanced countries, will in the next decades likely suffer the lowest real growth in their wages.

Freeland puts the blame for tepid wages almost entirely on Canadian businesses, which she claims “have not invested at the same rate as their U.S. counterparts.” The finance minister then boasts that Ottawa’s policies on housing and immigration will “strengthen the middle class and leave no one behind.”

But more than a few people suggest they are doing the opposite. Why, when the country’s GDP is expanding, have individual Canadians not been getting ahead? Why is their wage growth projected to lag so far behind citizens of other nations? And why are millennials taking the brunt of it?

The OECD predicts Canadians will experience the lowest growth in real wages out of 40 advanced economies. A downplayed version of this chart appeared in the Liberal budget. (Source: OECD / B.C. Business Council)
The OECD predicts Canadians will experience the lowest growth in real wages out of 40 advanced economies. A downplayed version of this chart appeared in the Liberal budget. (Source: OECD / B.C. Business Council)

David Williams, policy analyst for the Business Council of B.C., is helping ring the national alarm bells.

“Past generations of young Canadians entering the workforce could look forward to favourable tailwinds lifting real incomes during their working lives. That’s no longer the case,” he said.

“If the OECD’s long-range projections prove correct, young people entering the workforce today will not feel much of a tailwind at all. Rather, they face a long period of stagnating average real incomes that will last most of their working lives.”

Ottawa’s economic strategy is based on several “shaky pillars,” which include using “record immigration levels to turbo-charge population growth and housing demand in major cities,” Williams said.

“The political class appears to have lost interest in efforts to raise workers’ productivity and real wage growth through higher business investment per worker.”

Toronto-based analyst Stephen Punwasi says Canada is on its way to becoming the “next Greece,” referring to the way Greeks’ personal incomes tanked more than almost anywhere else after 2009 because of the housing-mortgage-ignited recession.

“Canada has embraced cheap growth by way of residential investment and debt,” Punwasi says. Canada has been putting too much emphasis on home construction, he said, as well as on printing money at a faster rate than almost any other country.

Nowhere in Canada, or even in much of the world, does the economy rely on housing as much as it does in B.C., which has a lower GDP per capita than Alberta and Saskatchewan. Almost 30 per cent of B.C.’s overall economy is tied up in real estate and construction. But the housing sector struggles to grow the economy, or wages, like other industries, which are more able to innovate and export.

The Liberals’ commitment to record immigration targets focuses mostly “on the benefits immigrants provide to older Canadians,” Punwasi said, including in the form of “strong housing demand and tax revenues.”But he cautions that Ottawa’s policies often exploit newcomers, who end up coming to the country unaware of flat wages, especially for the young adults who make up the bulk of immigrants, foreign students and temporary workers.

Donald Wright, the freshly retired head of B.C.’s provincial civil service, notes discouragingly that six out of 10 Canadians recently toll Nanos pollsters they expect their standard of living to worsen.

“Isn’t it time we took Canadians standard of living seriously?” Wright asks in presentations to groups of Canadian Senators and to the Canadian Association of Business Economists.

In addition to Wright’s concern about Ottawa’s inability to promote technological advancement and productivity, he joins Punwasi in worrying that policymakers are over-relying on population growth and cheap labour. It’s not helping the middle classes, he says.

“It’s time for some nuance on immigration policy,” says Wright, who was B.C. Premier John Horgan’s deputy minister. While remaining pro-immigration, Wright hopes for a more thoughtful debate about immigration in Canada, otherwise anti-immigration populists could come to dominate, as they have in other countries.

As it is, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s economic plan relies on increasingly record-high immigration counts — of 432,000 in 2022, 447,000 in 2023, and 451,000 in 2024. That compares to 250,000 when the Liberals were first elected.These targets, far higher than those in the U.S. or almost anywhere else, will impact economic equity in Canada, Wright says. “The evidence is very strong that the demographic group most adversely affected by higher immigration is the previous cohort of immigrants.”

That’s in part because the largest group of immigrants is disproportionately those between 25 and 40 years old, which is the same cohort as the already large baby-boom echo, also known as millennials.

An increase in immigration at this time amplifies the challenges millennials are having, particularly in the housing market, Wright says. “So, even if there is a valid argument for raising immigration levels, this is being done approximately 10 years prematurely.”

What makes it all the more unsettling is that the corporate-backed organizations pushing Ottawa to hike immigration targets, such as The Century Initiative and the Conference Board of Canada, have acknowledged that higher immigration leads to lower GDP per capita.

“So why,” Wright asks, “has it become the core of the federal government’s economic ‘strategy’?”

Source: Douglas Todd: Why Canadian wages never seem to go up

Todd: Immigrants have long hungered to own property, Other takes by Punwasi, Mason, Ibbitson and Anglin linking housing and immigration

Starting with Todd’s piece, with the money quote being from Dan Hiebert: “First and foremost, immigration policy is, essentially, also a form of housing policy.”

My apologies for the long compilation but wanted to bring the various threads together.

In one sense, housing, like climate change, healthcare, and infrastructure is one of the major externalities that most advocates for increased and high levels of immigration either fail to address or do so inadequately:

In 1891 the government of Canada awarded the first Ukrainian immigrants to Canada, Ivan Pylypiw and Vasyl Eleniak, 160 acres of land to farm.

They were among millions of struggling newcomers from Ukraine, Scotland, Iceland, Russia, France, Italy and elsewhere who responded to young Canada’s offer in the 1800s and early 1900s to homestead so-called free land to log, ranch or cultivate. Many other newcomers snapped up better-quality land for $1 an acre.

Those original quarter-section grids of land are still in existence on land-title and zoning maps from Nova Scotia to Vancouver Island. They serve as a reminder of the way Canada used old-fashioned advertising to get out the word more than 200 million acres of land were available to willing homesteaders.

Those parcels of dirt, some of which had been processed through Indigenous treaties and others not, served as tantalizing beacons to many people who had never been allowed in their homelands — because of poverty or discrimination — to buy property.

That quest for land continues today, serving as one of the key drivers of the world’s property markets.

And Canada’s immigration story dovetails with global history, as outlined in Simon Winchester’s best-selling new book, Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World. It details how the lure of obtaining property — in Europe, Africa, North America and the South Pacific — has for millennia shaped societies.

While all kinds of people want to own dwellings and land, studies show immigrants are even more convinced their future lies in property. An Angus Reid Institute poll found 59 per cent of Canadians believe it is “important to own a home to feel like a real Canadian,” but the proportion jumps to 75 per cent for recent immigrants.

Several Canadian academic studies reveal the rapidity with which immigrants invest in the housing market, the majority doing so in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Newcomers also spend considerably more, on average, on housing than Canadian-born.

recent Vivintel consumer survey, for instance, found South Asians in Canada (nine out of 10 of whom are born outside the country) are four times more likely than the average Canadian to buy a home.

“Home ownership is very important to South Asians. There’s prestige with owning land, being a homeowner. A few years after you arrive in Canada, it’s also seen as a key way to grow income,” says Vivintel director Rahul Sethi, 38, who came to Canada with his family.

Numerous studies show buyers from China have been eager to obtain high-end property in Canada. Vivintel has found the country’s 1.8 million ethnic Chinese residents are predisposed to luxury purchases. Two reasons people from China seek property in Canada are they don’t trust their own government and there is no private ownership of land, only leasing, in China.

Despite Canada’s long history as a destination for those who yearn for a better life and more prosperity, real-estate analysts judged it “controversial” only a few years ago to suggest that immigrants put pressure on housing and real-estate prices. But it’s now universally acknowledged, including by the development industry.

Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has increased immigration levels to a record of more than 400,000 a year, said this month: “One of the challenges we’re facing in Canada is our population, with immigration and other things has been growing over the past years and housing construction hasn’t kept up, which is a real problem.”

Andy Yan, director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program, confirms “the idea of being able to own land” is what has brought immigrants to Canada for a long time.

“There’s freedom and economic and social security in owning. Compared to being a renter, ownership gives you a new sense of privilege.” When democracies began emerging in the 1800s Yan recalls how many countries did not initially allow tenants to vote.

Home ownership, Yan said, appeals to many, both domestic and foreign-born, because it’s a form of wealth that can be passed down through generations, and homes provide collateral to take out more loans to buy more properties.

Canadian real-estate agent Sahil Jaggi, 36, an immigrant from India, recently made the news for leveraging his initially small purchase of a detached home into an empire in which he now holds 17 rental properties. Going against his own self-interest, Jaggi said governments should be placing surcharges on property investors like himself.

Canadian studies by UBC’s Markus Moos, Queen’s Andrejs Skaburskis, SFU’s Josh Gordon and others show immigrants on average move quickly after arriving into home ownership. Some buy Canadian properties at least in part with money brought from their homelands, which the scholars say can create a “decoupling” between local housing prices and average wages.

In ground-breaking studies, UBC geographer Daniel Hiebert found the typical value of a detached Metro Vancouver home owned by a new immigrant is $2.3 million, compared to $1.5 million for that of a Canadian-born person.

Home ownership is “an important milestone for immigrants in the path towards social and economic integration,” Hiebert said in his report, echoing others who maintain a stream of foreign capital into a relatively small number of high-end properties in Metro Vancouver has had a trickle-down effect, raising prices on most of the city’s dwellings.

Forty-one per cent of the population of Metro Vancouver are immigrants. The difference between the property values of long-term immigrants (a category which includes people who came to Canada before 1980) and “Canadian-born” owners is not as extreme as it is between those who arrived since 2009.

Still, Statistics Canada researchers Guy Gellatly and Rene Morissette found that the average price of a detached Metro Vancouver home owned by a long-term immigrant was 17 per cent higher than the average price of a house owned by a native-born resident.

The history of Canada, and the world, leaves no doubt immigration has a major impact on the availability and affordability of property. As Hiebert says in one of his studies: “First and foremost, immigration policy is, essentially, also a form of housing policy.”

Source: Immigrants have long hungered to own property 

Punwasi provocatively writes about a “snow job:”

Times are wild. Canadian home prices are so out of control that prices in Orillia, Ontario (at an average of more than $900,000) are now on par with house prices in Los Angeles. You can buy a single-family home in the entertainment capital of the world, with its legendary sandy beaches and near perfect weather, or spend the same to live in Orillia, which has several Tim Horton’s and that sweet casino. This is a point I made earlier this month in a now viral tweet that was meant to be a lighthearted poke at the housing issue. Millennials and other aspiring homebuyers felt it nailed their growing frustrations about the real estate market.

But some felt the need to explain that prices will continue to rise due to immigration. It’s something we’ve all heard before — millions of immigrants over the next decade will come for more opportunity. Often people will say Canada is getting half a million more per year going forward, as if the Prime Minister can just pop into the immigrant store and pick up a few hundred thousand. The assumption is Canada has been a great place to immigrate to in the past, and it will be going forward. Is that actually true?

Many believe Canada is still a great place to live with lots of opportunity and free health care. But the truth is, Canada’s reputation as a place of opportunity is fading. It’s prohibitively expensive to live here, wages aren’t stellar, and lots of other places have quality health care. Even so, Canadians assume immigrants will come at any cost. Somehow they have endless cash to drive home prices, but also don’t have any option other than Canada. Let’s take a look at this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity immigrants can’t pass up.

Anyone who’s thinking of buying or selling a home, or has read a newspaper, knows Canadian home prices are outrageous. Last week’s interest rate hike doesn’t change the reality that home prices just increased at the fastest rate in four decades, outpacing that of any of our G7 peers. National Bank of Canada estimates the median urban home price was $732,600 in the last quarter of 2021. By their calculations, a minimum household income of $147,000 is needed to carry the mortgage. That’s nearly double the median household income, already a hurdle for professional couples. It’s a near impossible task for young adults or recent immigrants.

The sky-high cost of real estate is just one part of the issue. The cost of living in general is a problem, and it’s not about to recede, as inflation hits a three-decade high. The Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) recently surveyed newcomers on their experience. The immigration advocacy group found that one in five plan to leave within two years. This is primarily due to the cost of living, which 64 per cent felt would be a barrier for future immigrants.

Put bluntly, Canada’s ambitious immigration growth plans are based on a country that no longer exists, a place where you can settle and enjoy social class mobility. Immigrants are finding themselves in a similar situation to Canada’s young adults. Signs of diminishing opportunity and bleak economic growth have begun to appear. At the same time, countries where immigrants traditionally arrive from are starting to catch up and offer greater social mobility.

Pressure makes diamonds, right? Defenders of the status quo argue that a high failure rate is the cost of buying into a hypercompetitive economy. Sure, many immigrants have an entrepreneurial spirit and will take a calculated risk. Does that describe Canada and will it in the future?

There’s no doubt Canada has historically been a great opportunity for immigrants. It boasts of its gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate, which frequently tops the G7. It sounds impressive if you don’t understand that Canada is the smallest member and that small numbers are easier to grow. Without adjusting for size, it’s unclear if the output of people grew or the number of people did. By measuring GDP per capita, we see this more clearly.

From 2000 to 2007, Canada was booming. The real GDP per capita averaged 1.6 per cent per year — remarkable growth for a relatively mature economy. It narrowly beat the U.S. by 0.1 points, topping the G7 at the time.

This was the Golden Age if you were young or immigrating to Canada. Housing was the most affordable in the past 40 years, and the country had the best economic progress in the G7. Moving here was like getting in on the IPO without having to do the turbulent seed rounds in the ’80s.

It’s not hard to understand why. A smaller share of income on shelter means more money for investment or consumption, and one person’s spending is another person’s income. Shelter is, by definition, a non-productive asset. It doesn’t matter if you spend $100 or $1 million; the home does the same thing for the user after it’s built. Investment and spending, in contrast, is how economies grow and wealth circulates.

The Great Recession is where Canada’s low rate addiction sent it spiralling. Our GDP per capita fell to 0.8 per cent per year between 2008 and 2020, failing to outperform the OECD average. Canada placed in the middle of the G7 for performance. It’s fairly common for people to think Canada managed this period better due to the lack of a housing crash. Most don’t realize real home prices in cities like Toronto had yet to recover from the early ’90s high. Home prices didn’t fall much because they hadn’t recovered from the last crash yet.

The opportunity for young adults and immigrants began to close during this period. Low rates were arguably needed to mitigate the Great Recession’s economic risks. However, Canada became addicted to cheap and superficial growth.

The Bank of Canada (BoC) has worked very hard to reduce interest costs: Traditional logic is that lower interest rates mean smaller payments and more cash flow. There’s only one hitch — that only applies to rational players in a balanced market. In reality, people’s emotions can get the best of them.

The BoC twice demonstrated they misunderstood the relationship between low rates and home prices. The first time was in the 2021 revisions to its primary forecast model. Like a Christopher Columbus of monetary policy, it had apparently discovered that credit influences home prices. They must have missed that whole U.S. housing bubble-thing.

The BoC reinforced the impact of low rates on rising home prices in a December speech. Looking at the past 30 years of home prices and mortgages, they found a trend. Mortgage rates consistently fell, but the cost of housing continued to rise. When “interest rates fall, many households simply adjust by borrowing more,” explained Deputy Gov. Paul Beaudry to a provincial regulator last November.

Best-case scenario, they had no clue what they were doing. This is a point I explained in further detail to Canadian Parliament’s Finance Committee, when invited to explain Canada’s high inflation.

What does monetary policy have to do with immigration? A lot.

If capital has improperly incentivized use, it creates economic inefficiencies. One example is residential investment, the portion of the economy covering home construction, major renovation, and land transfer costs — which reached 9.56 per cent of GDP in Q4, the last financial quarter of 2021. For context, this is almost 50 per cent higher than the U.S. at the peak of its real estate bubble. It’s accepted that the share of the U.S. economy devoted to building more housing during this time was reckless.

Here is a telling statistic: About 1 in 59 working adults in Toronto are realtors. Think of how many public schools you see in a week. Now realize you’re more likely to meet a realtor than a public-school teacher in the city.

Real estate investment has also diverted capital from the country’s real productivity. One area where this is showing up, often associated with the immigrant experience, is self-employment. The segment recently fell to the smallest share of employed people since the 1980s (13.7 per cent, as of March). Why spend capital on a risky business that can create jobs when you can, if you’re lucky, buy a condo?

The shift from fostering productivity to non-productive assets is attracting international attention. The OECD’s forecast for Canada shows GDP growth per capita of 0.7 per cent per year from 2020 to 2030 — significantly below the U.S. rate (42 per cent lower) as well as the OECD average (46 per cent lower). Canada would occupy the spot Greece held after the global financial crisis, which is a fun fact that won’t make the immigration brochure.

The slow growth has already set off alarms in Canada’s business community.

“Past generations of young Canadians entering the workforce could look forward to favourable tailwinds lifting real incomes over their working lives. That’s no longer the case,” said David Williams, who heads the Business Council of British Columbia (BCBC). 

“If the OECD’s long-range projections prove correct, young people entering the workforce today will not feel much of a tailwind at all,” he wrote in an analysis this past February. “Rather, they face a long period of stagnating average real incomes that will last most of their working lives.”

Canada’s openness to immigration is pitched as civic-minded global leadership. When you dig into the data, it looks more like a bait and switch — a cover for inbound colonialism.

Policy-makers are focused on the benefits immigrants provide to older Canadians. They often cite strong housing demand, and tax revenues to help with demographics. These aren’t selling points to come to Canada — they’re the reason Canada needs immigrants.

Canada’s historically endless supply of immigrants might dry up in the not-so-distant future. The country’s largest source of immigrants by far is India, the source of a third of arrivals. A distant second is China, followed by the Philippines and Nigeria. It turns out PwC has forecast those countries will be larger and wealthier economies in less than 30 years. The most sought-after talent wants an economy looking to foster and support them. An economy looking for half their income for taxes and a third for rent isn’t as competitive as you might think.

Yes, 30 years is a long time. Not as long as it might sound, though, and competition for Canada’s immigration pool will emerge quickly. In India, the World Economic Forum forecasts that 80 per cent of households will be middle class by 2030, and drive 70 per cent of the economy. The government is fostering a “founder’s mentality,” which will build the entrepreneurial mindset. As a result, the country will become a “playground for growth and innovation.”

China may have an even faster trajectory, according to The Economist. The country is forecast to pass the World Bank’s threshold for high-income countries by next year. If it does so, that would be declared in the mid-2024 update. That’s right around the corner.

These are just a couple of countries Canada draws immigrants from. It would be silly to think other countries aren’t competing for the same pool of talent. It’s downright naive to think they aren’t scouting Canada’s domestic talent too.

Canada was a great place to immigrate and can be once again with a little more planning. However, the country needs to stop treating immigrants as commodities. At some point in the not-so-distant future immigrants might start to feel like they’re being catfished with an early 2000s picture of Canada.

Instead, the country should focus on an environment where young adults thrive. Foster a healthy business and innovation environment, and Canada won’t need the hard sales pitch. People will flock here.

Ignore the environment and sell an opportunity that no longer exists? Forget about attracting immigrants. By 2030, Canada might be trying to figure out how to just retain its young adults.

Stephen Punwasi is a data analyst and the co-founder of the housing news site Better Dwelling.

Source: The Great Canadian Snow Job: With sky-high real estate and soaring inflation, is Canada selling immigrants on an opportunity that no longer exists?

Gary Mason’s short take on immigration and housing:

There are other issues that aren’t easily fixable. More than 100,000 people poured into B.C. in the last year. You’re never going to build enough housing quickly enough to satiate the soaring demand those kind of immigration levels create.

Supply issues do result in rising prices. Immigration is the lifeblood of this country, but it will continue to come at a cost, surging house prices among them.

Canada’s politicians know that it will take various complex solutions to make real inroads in addressing our housing crisis. But it seems they’re too gutless to go there.

Source: Politicians are selling us a myth on housing: that more supply will be our salvation

Lastly, John Ibbitson’s short take with a bizarre and frankly unworkable suggestion to address the contradiction between increased immigration levels for parents and grandparents and addressing an aging population:

Fifth, immigration levels should be kept high, with an annual intake above 1 per cent of population or higher, and skewed heavily in favour of younger workers. International students, temporary foreign workers – anyone young and willing to fill a vacant job should be offered permanent residence. Family-class immigration should be restricted to bringing in the people needed to keep economic-class immigrants from returning home.

Sixth, because those immigrants need somewhere to live, we need to increase the housing supply. The number of high-rise apartments grew faster than other forms of housing over the past five years. Since the census also slows strong population growth in city centres, this suggests densification efforts are working.

Those efforts should continue, as should efforts to expand the stock of low-rise apartments and of suburban houses, many with granny flats. As our immigration intake increases, we will need more of everything.

Mostly, we should be honest with each other. We’re old and getting older. Let’s admit it and deal with it, now.

Source: The 2021 census tells us Canada’s population isn’t aging – it’s aged. Here are six ways we can adapt

Lastly, a reminder by Howard Anglin, former senior staffer to Jason Kenney at both the federal and provincial levels, of the significant links between housing and immigration:

The important questions of politics rarely change, we just change the way we talk about them.

Consider housing prices: in the 1970s, politicians understood that the problem was, at its most basic level, one of supply and demand. Today, it seems we only ever hear about inadequate supply. Politicians talk about the need for more houses, but they’ve stopped talking about why we need them. What happened to demand?

With starter homes in Vancouver and Toronto selling for 14 times the average income, the concern is especially acute right now, but it’s not new. In 1976, economist Gordon Soules interviewed two young Vancouver politicians for a book on rising house prices. See if you can guess who they are:

Concerned Politician 1: “First, it is essential that we relate both the local and the national housing problems to our immigration laws. Are we in fact merely trying to create new housing, as well as new employment opportunities, just to keep pace with the yearly average of 200,000 immigrants that Canada is admitting every year?”

Concerned Politician 2: “Foreign investors, many speculatively, are driving up home prices beyond the reach of British Columbians,” and in an “ideal” world “most land would be owned by the government and leased to the people.”

Surprisingly, the first quote was from Mike Harcourt, the future mayor of Vancouver and NDP premier; the second, promoting socialized real estate, was from future Social Credit premier Bill Vander Zalm. Even more surprising, there was consensus across political lines that immigration policy was a factor in rising housing prices. Vancouver’s progressive mayor Art Phillips chimed in, telling Soules: “I maintain that the primary approach to solving the housing problem in the Greater Vancouver area lies in the immediate reduction and future control of immigration.”

Sometime between then and now, we forgot about the demand side of that most basic of economic equations. In the meantime, Vancouver has added 1.5 million new residents, and house prices keep climbing. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t other factors involved.

Construction feeszoning rulessocial housing policiesregulations, and commodity prices have all played a part, as have internal migration and federal monetary policy, but it’s magical thinking to imagine that doubling the city’s population hasn’t been a major factor.

The air of unreality extends to federal politics. At the same time economists are warning us about an over-inflated housing market, and the Governor of the Bank of Canada is worrying openly that “recent rapid increases in home prices are not normal,” the federal government is planning an historically large surge in immigration.

For most of the last decade, the federal government under both Conservatives and Liberals admitted an average of 275,000 new permanent residents to Canada each year, and about twice that number of temporary residents. Now, against consistent public opinion, the Liberals are promising to raise the number to more than 420,000. That is the equivalent of adding a new Halifax every year, or a new Alberta over the next decade.

Except, of course, that with most newcomers gravitating to the largest cities, it really means more demand in the places that already have the most expensive housing markets.

At some point, we forgot about the demand side of that most basic of economic equations.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Immigration levels are not a force of nature beyond our control. Each year, the federal minister of immigration tables a “levels plan” in parliament announcing the total number of permanent residents his ministry will process that year. There is hardly any policy discussion about the optimal level inside government, and even less outside.

Considerations like housing or infrastructure or health care don’t enter into it. In its 41-page immigration levels plan for 2020, the Trudeau government didn’t mention either of these issues. Nor did it note, let alone discuss, the environmental and ecological impact of moving so many people to the one of the most carbon intensive countries in the world — a concern that once led David Suzuki to declare that “Canada is full.”

A new Public Policy Forum report by the economist and former head of the B.C. public service, Don Wright, corrects these blind spots. The report offers several ways the federal government can raise the Canadian middle-class standard of living, including by shifting “from immigration policy that is focused merely on increasing GDP to one focused on increasing GDP per capita” and by reversing the downward pressure on Canadian wages and the rising pressure on housing caused, in part, by current levels.

The report’s discussion begins, as all such discussions invariably do in Canada, with the assurance, in so many words, that the author is not Donald Trump. In a country that took public policy seriously this disclaimer wouldn’t be necessary, but this is Canada where, as Wright accurately observes, “the promoters of large immigration numbers are quick to label as racist, parochial or small-minded any questioning of larger immigration numbers.”

The accusations are nonsensical, of course. Justin Trudeau’s immigration policy in 2016 wasn’t racist because the annual level was lower than it is today, nor is the current level xenophobic because next year it will be even higher. And when Pierre Trudeau cut annual immigration in half between 1967 and 1972 and then by 60 percent between 1974 and 1978, he wasn’t being “parochial or small-minded,” it was just part of the normal fluctuations in immigration levels that used to track economic and political conditions.

Wright believes that “the optimal level of immigration” is not only “a legitimate question of public policy debate,” but it should offer “a much more nuanced set of policy ideas than ‘more people mean a bigger GDP.’”

It should, for example, include discussion of things like “GDP per capita and how income is distributed” — things that matter because they directly affect our quality of life. Things like the cost of housing, which is the single largest expense for Canadian families and determines how long they have to climb the property ladder before they can afford to settle somewhere and help build the neighbourhood relationships that are so important for personal happiness and the communities that are necessary for social solidarity.

It won’t come as a surprise to residents in Vancouver and Toronto, but it is still shocking to read that their cities are, according to a study by Demographia cited by Wright, “more unaffordable than any American city.” Of Canadian cities, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa fall into the study’s worst category of “severely unaffordable,” while Calgary is “seriously unaffordable” and the homes of lucky Edmontonians are “only moderately unaffordable.”

According to Wright, “[t]here are multiple reasons why Canada’s housing has become so unaffordable, but it defies credulity to argue that high levels of immigration will not exacerbate the growing unaffordability of housing in Canada.” This is because “[i]mmigration levels of between 400,000 and 425,000 per year (the current target of the federal government) means an additional demand for approximately 170,000 new homes each year.” And, of course, “[c]lose to 75 percent of immigrants settle in these six major cities.” Supply, meet demand.

Nowhere is it written that Canada’s population must increase, year on year, forever.

In response to sluggish real wages and rising housing prices, Wright commits Laurentian blasphemy and wonders “[c]ould it not be better in the near term to lower the level of immigration, while significantly improving support to new immigrants, giving them a better chance to more easily integrate into the economic mainstream?” He doesn’t get into specific numbers, but it is remarkable enough that he even asks the question.

Wright’s proposal is modest, the kind of plan that would have received broad bipartisan support in Canada until quite recently, and still would in most of our peer countries. It wasn’t long ago that respected figures on the left like Bernie Sanders denounced high levels of immigration as serving the interests of big business rather than domestic workers, and in 2017 progressive darling Jacinda Ardern ran on a platform of cutting immigration to New Zealand by up to 40 percent, in part to address housing pressures. (She didn’t keep her promise, but her government is once again talkingabout reforming post-Covid migration policy to relieve the pressure on housing, infrastructure, and the environment.)

An even more ambitious plan, one that would tackle the housing crisis head on, would aim explicitly for population stability.

Nowhere is it written that Canada’s population must increase, year on year, forever. It isn’t ordained in the constitution that Toronto and Vancouver must absorb hundreds of thousands of newcomers every year, or that their downtowns must bristle with cranes and condo towers and their suburbs sprawl a little further each year up the mountainsides, along the lakeshore, and into surrounding farmland and greenbelts. Relentless urban growth is the result of political decisions made each year in Ottawa. It is a choice, but it isn’t the only choice.

In two articles, from 2012 and 2017, Anatole Romaniuk, the former director of the Demographic Division at Statistics Canada, offered his vision of what a stable population would look like and how it would work.

Romaniuk begins by challenging the assumptions of “the populationist agenda which postulates that growing and large populations are the forces that move economies forward and project a nation’s international might.” Chasing “relevance” — one of the undefined goals of the Trudeau government’s Century Initiative — is a mug’s game. We will never come close to matching the populations of China and India and our international reputation has never have been based on our population. Besides, the government’s job is to boost domestic quality of life, not diplomats’ egos or the interests of the bankers and global management consultants advising it.

Like Wright, Romaniuk takes pains to establish that his proposal is not anti-immigration per se and certainly not anti-immigrant. Romaniuk, an immigrant himself, believes that “[a] liberal society by its very nature cannot be a closed society” and “[w]hile immigration is not a solution to all our social and economic problems, it can be a part of it.” He simply wants us to consider, probably for the first time in a generation, what is it we want immigration to do, and then design a policy to achieve it. In other words, he wants us to think of immigration policy as policy, the same way we think about taxes or research funding, rather than as a feel-good commitment without real-world effects.

Romaniuk runs through the data, well-known to most demographers and immigration experts but rarely acknowledged by our politicians and pundits, deflating the commonly assumed benefits of our current high — and the even higher proposed — annual immigration levels.

For example, multiple studies have showed that there is little, if any, link between increasing immigration and per capita GDP growth; that the earning gap between new immigrants and the Canadian-born has persisted or widened since 1980; that the poverty level of new immigrants is more than twice that of the Canadian-born (and has almost certainly gotten worse during the pandemic); and, contrary to the most popular justification — keeping our pension Ponzi scheme afloat — it has only a modest impact on population aging (according to StatCan, even the high assumption on immigration levels would only lower our average age by one year by 2036).

This is the sort of stubborn data that our politicians either ignore or dismiss in favour of inspirational stories of individual success, but which no amount of wishful optimism can refute.

Reviewing Romaniuk’s 2017 article, Dr. Roderic Beaujot of Western University suggests that it would be possible to stabilize our population through a mix of slightly higher birthrates and slightly lower, but still not insubstantial, annual immigration: specifically, “a cohort fertility of about 1.7 and a net annual immigration of about 0.6 per cent [would] produce about zero population growth in the long run.”

Such a policy would only require us to reduce permanent immigration to 225,000 a year — about the number of the late Chrétien years and still much higher than the G7 average — and would draw on recent pro-familypolicy proposals to modestly increase the Canadian birthrate to about where it was in 2010, or where it is now in the United States. It may even be that, by cooling the demand for housing, and thereby removing one of the reasons young Canadians often cite for putting off starting or having families, lowering immigration might itself play a small part in increasing birthrates.

Population stability alone wouldn’t solve the housing crisis. There would still be a need for some of the supply-side solutions that have been proposed, such as zoning for fewer detached houses, more infills, shared living spaces, and clearing away regulatory barriers to allow us to just build more, more, more, anywhere and everywhere.

But a future of denser, taller, more crowded, and smaller living units isn’t everyone’s idea of an affordable housing solution. So, as we work on the perennial problem of supply, perhaps we can remember a time, not long ago, when politicians talked seriously about the demand side of the equation as well.


Douglas Todd: The painful demographics of homelessness

Some interesting data:

They are injured construction workers who need to kill the pain, ex-soldiers with trauma, spouses escaping conflict and First Nations members who can’t get housing on their reserves.

Such histories are common among the men who make up 68 per cent of all homeless in British Columbia, according to Judy Graves, who spent three decades as a champion for people forced onto the street and into shelters, including as the city of Vancouver’s full-time homeless advocate.

“Many men become disposable at certain times in their lives,” said Graves. They wind up surviving in shelters, in tents or couch surfing because their jobs or families have fallen apart and they have been struck down by despair or succumbed to addiction.

Graves put forth many reasons why men are so overrepresented in B.C.’s latest homeless count, which was released this month and focused more than in the past on demographics. The count discovered 8,665 people in the province without shelter, a rise of 11 per cent from 2018.

Many of the men, according to 25 counts across the province, come from the unusually high proportion of Indigenous people, former military personnel and Black Canadians who are homeless.

Almost two of five homeless residents are Indigenous, even though Indigenous people make up only one in 20 of the population. Six per cent served with the military or the RCMP, which makes them “vastly overrepresented” among those without a home.

For the first time, the provincewide count included data on race. While it found 63 per cent of the homeless are white people, which is roughly equivalent to the overall ratio, it discovered three per cent were Black people, even though only one per cent of B.C.’s population is Black.

South Asian people comprised only two per cent of the homeless, which is much lower than the overall cohort of 11 per cent. And East Asians, including ethnic Chinese, accounted for just two per cent, even though they make up 12 per cent of all residents. Graves owed such findings in part to “strong cultural support for families.”

As someone who has taken part in many homeless counts and continues to meet with street people across Metro Vancouver, Graves has talked with men from a range of ethnic backgrounds and nationalities who have ended up desperate for provisional shelter.

Many had become addicted to opioids after becoming repeatedly injured in construction, the military, policing or other physically dangerous jobs, which are mostly held by men, she said. “They get caught between their pain and being out of the workforce.”

A lot of men she’s come to know have also left their homes because of conflict with a spouse or partner, which is the reason 14 per cent of B.C. residents reported they’re homeless. “That’s a really big one.”

While there is already a large amount of government housing provided exclusively for women, including transition shelters for those facing domestic violence, Graves said there is none specifically for men, including for fathers and their children. She believes there should be.

“I think marriage break up is actually harder on men than women,” she said, explaining that many women quickly gain support from their social network, while men often turn to drinking alone. “Men really need support and counselling right after a domestic conflict.”

The Ministry of Housing did not respond directly to many Postmedia questions about homelessness, including why there are no shelters distinctly for males given the government’s emphasis on putting every policy through a “gender lens.”

Instead, spokesperson Sarah Budd maintained the NDP government believes homeless women are undercounted; so it wants to provide them with more housing.

Graves calls Victoria’s approach “reverse gender politics.”

One of the reasons, Graves added, that such a large proportion of Indigenous men and women end up on the streets, living in tents or in shelters is a lack of housing on reserves across Canada.

“A lot of the housing on reserves was built 40 years ago and is falling apart,” she said, noting First Nations people on reserves aren’t permitted to own their own dwellings.

“It was also built only for families and is often unbelievably crowded.” There are, she said, almost no small housing units on reserves for single people, who are the most likely to need a place to live.

The number of foreign-born people who are homeless in B.C. almost doubled compared to the last count in 2018, rising to eight per cent of the total.

But that is far below their provincial average, which has immigrants, refugees and those seeking permanent resident status making up one out of three residents. Graves suggested that foreign-born homeless people might be undercounted since those who have “uncertain immigration status” would tend to hide from counters.

“People have to be trained on where to look.”

The Housing Ministry said in this year’s budget spending on “housing and homelessness supports reached more than $1.2 billion a year for the next three years — three times the level of funding in 2017.”

Source: Douglas Todd: The painful demographics of homelessness

@DouglasTodd ‘People are dying’ — Canada must expose dirty money now

Longstanding issue:

In authoritarian countries, Canada has a reputation for having the weakest anti-money-laundering laws in the democratic West.

So, with the recent crackdown on Russian oligarchs who prop up Vladimir Putin, experts say it is urgent that Canada finally and rapidly make it possible to track the trans-nationals who secretly ship ill-gotten money into this country through a process dubbed “snow-washing.”

Corporate lawyer Kevin Comeau, an expert on money laundering, says “it’s terrific“ that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced an agreement with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to speed up the deadline for a publicly accessible registry to identity the real owners of companies, particularly those invested in real estate.

It was three years ago that Trudeau first promised a national corporate ownership registry, which would be searchable by name. The Liberals slated it to be up and running by 2025. Now, in the light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the pledge is that the registry will be active by next year.

Even though Comeau thinks a national ownership registry, loosely modelled on one recently started in B.C., could actually be pressed into place by the end of this year, he is hopeful the federal government will meet its 2023 deadline — because “people are dying. There’s a lot of political pressure on them.”

Such registries, which reveal the true owners of corporations, trusts and property, are the only way that Western governments can follow through on their high-profile promises to sanction corrupt billionaires and others who benefit from being cronies of ruthless strongmen.

A working ownership registry that can identify and lead to the seizure of illicitly held assets in Canada — which should have been put in place years ago to stop dirty money pouring into the nation’s real estate — “will put pressure on the oligarchs and in turn pressure on Putin to stop this war,” Comeau said.

“There is a huge incentive for persons from authoritarian regimes to get their money out and send it into a western liberal democracy that has the rule of law, which protects against arbitrary confiscation” by volatile leaders, said Comeau, who has produced reports on money laundering for the C.D. Howe Institute, Transparency International and other organizations.

“Why do they pick Canada? Of the large western liberal democracies, we have the weakest anti-money-laundering rules.” Britain, the U.S. and European Union nations are far ahead in monitoring and sometimes targeting the real owners of laundered assets.

The Economist magazine has found that Russia, which last month invaded Ukraine, has the most billionaire oligarchs who are cronies of autocratic leaders. Russia is followed by China, which has a stronger presence in Canada through trade, international education and immigration. Saudi Arabia, Iran and many other regimes also have rich citizens seeking offshore havens to hide their tainted money.

Ownership registries should have been up and running much earlier in Canada, said Comeau. But somehow, many Canadians bought the idea that global money-laundering and tax evasion is a “victimless crime”, and that it’s useful to have foreign money, even the proceeds of corruption, flow into an economy.

Slowly, however, more Canadians have been realizing it is “a horrible thing,” especially for housing affordability.

“In the past few years, people have become aware there is a real problem of laundered money coming in from around the world and entering our real estate market. That has been driving up prices for Canadians, such that many persons couldn’t afford to buy a home in the cities and towns which they grew up in,” Comeau said. “It’s the first time in Canadian history that middle-class persons, as a group, cannot purchase homes in their own cities and towns.”

And taxpayers don’t have to worry about the cost of setting up federal and provincial registries that will make it possible to expose shady owners of corporations and properties. On the contrary.

A public ownership registry creates a “massive weapon” against oligarchs, kleptocrats, human traffickers and tax evaders because it is the key to seizing their assets, including properties they might have held for decades.

“It’s a huge source of revenue for the Canadian government and the provinces. It can bring in many, many billions of dollars. You’re talking millions of dollars to set up a registry. You will probably bring in a hundred-fold more by having a registry in place. Just by (seizing) 20 houses, you’ve paid for a registry many times over.”

Since Comeau is among those who are calling for a “pan-Canadian” registry system that includes the provinces, which have jurisdiction over real estate, he praises the B.C. NDP for helping lead the way by last year creating a beneficial housing ownership registry.

Even though B.C.’s registry has a few weaknesses, Comeau said they are fixable.

With a bit more spending, he said, B.C. could remove the $5 paywall for each search, provide a line for tipsters, require third-party identify verification, and make sure foreign passports written in non-Latin scripts, such as Russian, Chinese and Arabic alphabets, are translated into English.

In addition, Comeau said, people found to make fraudulent entries on any Canadian registry should be subjected not only to fines — “which are often just the cost of doing business” — but to potential prison sentences.

With such reforms, Canada and the provinces would no longer be known around the world as a “snow-washing” capital.

Source: Douglas Todd: ‘People are dying’ — Canada must expose dirty money now

Douglas Todd: Generous Canada now No. 1 country for foreign students

Of note, along with some of the factors, some justified, some more questionable that made Canada relatively more attractive than other destinations. Focus on increasing international students predates current government. Interesting comment by Chris Friesen regarding preference given to international students with respect to permanent residency. :

Canada has become the most popular country in the world for international students, says a survey conducted in more than 50 countries.

Two in five international students rate Canada as their first choice for higher education, according to IDP Connect’s fall poll of 3,600 study-visa holders. That’s more than double the proportion that picked the next highest-ranked nations — Britain, the U.S. or Australia.

A majority of students who choose Canada as their top option said a key reason was being allowed to work while studying, says IDP, as well as the relative affordability of tuition fees, given most of the country’s universities and colleges are subsidized by taxpayers.

The Canadian Bureau for International Education adds that 60 per cent of foreign students in Canada, more than half of whom come from India or China, want to apply to become permanent residents — an option not available in most countries.

Given the competition in the West for foreign students, some specialists are skeptical about Ottawa’s increasingly eye-catching efforts to appeal to the estimated six million students in the world who are going abroad for their educations.

Higher education experts question why Canada appears to be the only nation that has given foreign students social-assistance payments during COVID. They also ask about Canada’s unusual decision to allow students almost unlimited opportunities to work while ostensibly studying.

Canada’s foreign-student numbers have almost doubled since the Liberals were elected in 2015. Their numbers are returning to the 600,000 a year range despite COVID border restrictions. During the pandemic, many offshore students studied remotely, but most are physically back on Canadian campuses.

Foreign students make up about 20 per cent post-secondary students in Canada, which along with Australia and Britain, has the highest ratios in the world. In the U.S., foreign nationals on study visas account for only seven per cent of students. In the European Union, they’re just six per cent.

Ottawa, which now considers foreign students prime candidates for immigration, has gone the opposite direction of other countries during COVID and allowed study visa holders to apply for taxpayer-funded programs such as the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has also given international students almost unlimited access to full-time jobs, including for at least three years after graduation. And the Liberal government has made it possible for them to keep their long-term work opportunities even if they have not been in the country. In addition, unlike elsewhere, many provinces, such as B.C., offer almost-free medical coverage.

British Columbia, which normally has about 22 per cent of all of Canada’s foreign students, has the strongest concentration, focused mostly in Metro Vancouver where their presence affects the rental and housing markets. B.C. has four times as many foreign students per capita as Alberta.

The Vancouver campus of the University of B.C., similar to previous years, has almost 17,000 international students this fall, accounting for about one third of all graduate students and one quarter of undergrads. More than one third are from China and one fifth from India. The rest hail from scores of countries, particularly the U.S., Korea and Iran.

Simon Fraser University has almost 7,000 foreign students, 26 per cent of undergrads and 34 per cent of grad students. About two in five are from China and one in five from India, with smaller cohorts from Korea, Iran and Hong Kong. The proportion of foreign students at Capilano University and Vancouver Island University is lower.

In addition to the Liberal government boasting foreign students bring more than $21 billion a year into the economy, Canadian higher education specialist Alex Usher says the country’s post-secondary institutions now rely on foreign students for 45 per cent of fee revenue. That’s up from 15 per cent in the 2000s. Usher cautions against such a heavy reliance on foreign students.

When COVID first hit, both Australia and the U.S. brought in far more rules about foreign students than Canada; directing many back to their homelands.

The two English-language nations wanted to protect the health of residents and, unlike Canada, were not prepared to provide social-assistance, health benefits and jobs to foreign nationals while the domestic population struggled. As a result about 10 per cent of post-secondary staff and faculty in the U.S. and Australia was laid off.

Canada began allowing study-visa holders into the country in October 2020, despite the border being then shut to almost everyone except essential workers. But Australia only decided this week to welcome back more than 200,000 foreign students. There had been fears that many Asian students would opt to study in person in Canada and the U.S. rather than pay for online courses from Australia.

University of Sydney Prof. Salvatore Babones, who has studied international student policy in Canada and around the world, said this week: “I’m surprised Canada has extended welfare (CERB) benefits to international students. It’s a strange decision, since most such students must demonstrate the ability to support themselves financially before being granted a study visa.”

The international education specialist finds it “sad” that Canada has lifted the normal 20-hour-a-week cap on how much each foreign student is permitted to work. “The cap serves an important purpose: It ensures that students are in the country to study, not on an exploitive fake study program in order to get a work permit.”

While Canada’s unusually magnanimous benefits for foreign students might sound humane, Babones said, they in effect turn study visas into work visas, “that require recipients to pay ‘protection money’ to educational institutions in exchange for permission to work.”

Vancouver’s Chris Friesen, who chairs the umbrella body overseeing settlement services for immigrants and refugees in Canada, has said the Canadian public is in the dark about how policy has been changed to give preference to international students.

Ottawa, he said, should set up a royal commission to look into issues such as whether Canadians agree that foreign students, who tend to come from the “cream of the crop” in their homelands, should go to the front of the line for permanent residence status.

Source: Douglas Todd: Generous Canada now No. 1 country for foreign students

Douglas Todd: What do Indigenous voices say about immigration?

Some interesting voices. A more comprehensive survey would be of interest:

As a First Nations leader, what would you think of Canada’s immigration policy?

“It’s a bit late to ask that question,” answers Tsawwassen First Nations Chief Ken Baird, with a wry smile.

Indeed, Canada’s Indigenous people have never really been asked how they feel about immigration policy, despite experiencing wave after wave of newcomers.

A small number of First Nations leaders over the years, however, have said they want more influence in shaping immigration. There came a point more than a decade ago when the Assembly of First Nations resolved to “freeze all immigration coming into Canada until the federal government addresses, commits, and delivers resources to improve housing conditions, education, health and employment in First Nations communities.”

But not much came of the Assembly’s demand. Immigration policy in Canada continues to be made mostly behind closed doors, particularly in the Prime Minister’s Office.

First Nations are often said to be in a double-bind when it comes to the issue of large-scale immigration, which has shaped Canada more than most nations.

“Regarding immigration, Aboriginal peoples are caught between a rock and a hard place,” academics Bonita Lawrence, a member of the Mi’kmaq Nation, and Enaskhi Dua have said. Either Indigenous people become implicated in anti-immigration rhetoric, they said, “or they support struggles of people of colour that fail to take seriously the reality of ongoing colonization.”

Outstanding questions are many: How does increasing Indigenous self-determination fit with immigration? And how does it connect to official multiculturalism, which supports the thriving of all of Canada’s subcultures? Should an umbrella organization for the country’s 1.6 million Indigenous people help set immigration levels, as Quebec does?

While the Tsawwassen First Nation’s elected chief says Indigenous people, like others, have a wide range of views about immigration, he is personally mostly sanguine about it.

“I’m all for people who want to come here and work hard and build themselves a life and have good family values. And 99 per cent of immigrants do. And I think that’s pretty admirable,” Baird said.

While Baird is among the First Nations leaders who don’t intend to push on immigration issues, University of B.C. sociologist Rima Wilkes and colleagues have made public presentations in which they ask questions about immigration and Indigenous peoples. Their questions are designed to urge Ottawa to take First Nations perspectives more seriously.

“What does it mean to settle people on someone else’s land?” Wilkes asks in a presentation. “Why is there ‘consultation’ (with First Nations) on natural resources such as mining, oil and gas and timber, but not on the human resources such as immigration policy? What about real decision-making?”

Veteran B.C. Indigenous leader Bill Wilson, who helped found the First Nations Summit, has said he is open to most forms of immigration, particularly for refugees.

When asked about immigration, the member of northern Vancouver Island’s Kwak’wala-speaking peoples, who is also father of former Liberal cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, told a story about the late Vancouver Sun aboriginal affairs reporter Ron Rose, with whom he became close friends.

“It may have very well been Ron Rose asking me the same question (in the 1980s): ‘What do I think about immigration and the people coming in?’” said the blunt-talking hereditary chief. “I said to him, ‘Well, at least the colour is getting better. He and I laughed. And he said, ‘You’re an a–hole.’ And then we moved on.”

The citizenship exam that is required of all new immigrants, Wilson believes, should include more on Indigenous history in Canada.

“I don’t have any problem with people coming to this country. But what I object to is they’re not required to understand the history,” he said. “Hopefully they could start to embrace some of the laws we are finally resorting to as a country in terms of (Indigenous peoples’) relationship to the land and the water and the sea resources.”

The First Nations lawyer believes a portion of new immigrants, the majority of whom are now non-white, “are basically oblivious to Indigenous issues” at the same time they are becoming more influential. “WASPS are obviously becoming a minority and losing a great deal of their power.”

Baird, who worked as a fisher and water-system specialist before becoming chief of the self-governing Tsawwassen First Nation, believes the coming together of Indigenous people with early settlers and immigrants has “turned us all into minorities in a way. And that’s a good thing.”

Although some wonder whether Canada’s official multiculturalism policy ignores the special status of First Nations, Baird said, “I don’t see a problem with it. At the end of the day, we all want to be treated equal and have the same rights and prosperous lives. And your colour and blood and race and religion shouldn’t matter. That’s part of being in a free country.”

Wilson values bringing in more refugees, but he questions the country’s immigrant-investor programs, both national and provincial, which have urged wealthy foreign nationals to gain Canadian passports by promising to divert money into the economy.

Wilson strongly opposed such “selective citizenship,” saying “money-backed immigration is not sincere and it’s not necessary.” But “accepting refugees makes sense,” he said, because their inclusion “is based on need.”

Although Wilson generally agrees First Nations should get more say in immigration policy, especially over their own traditional territories, he is not sure how that would work.

“How do you implement that? We have a multiplicity of tribes. There are 27 separate tribes in the province of B.C. alone.”

When it comes to questions of Canada’s Indigenous peoples and immigration, the conversation is only beginning.

Source: Douglas Todd: What do Indigenous voices say about immigration?

Douglas Todd: Is Vancouver really the ‘anti-Asian hate crime capital of North America?’

More discussion about the data and the challenges of country comparisons:

It’s hardly the reputation Vancouver, or any city, would want.

But in May some of the world’s largest media outlets dubbed Vancouver, which has about 700,000 residents of mixed ethnicities, the “anti-Asian hate crime capital of North America.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Is Vancouver really the ‘anti-Asian hate crime capital of North America?’

Douglas Todd: Parties mostly duck big migration issues in Election 2021

Todd’s take on the party platforms, based on my comparative table:

Canada’s long history of large-scale immigration is arguably the defining characteristic of the country, but only one of the minor political parties is putting the subject at the front of its election campaign.

The three largest parties are playing it low-key on immigration, refugees, guest workers and international students. That’s despite Ottawa normally (pre-COVID) welcoming more than one million migrants in all categories each year.

Canada takes in the most immigrants per capita of any country in the OECD, the club of rich nations. It has been in the top four Western countries both for the total number of migrants it accepts and for the proportion in its overall population.

But even though immigration policy powerfully affects Canada’s economy and culture, scholars say the Canadian media and politicians find the subject too sensitive, almost taboo, to debate. That’s unlike almost everywhere else.

Since the parties are largely refraining from highlighting their migration policies, I appreciate that Andrew Griffith, a former director general of Canada’s Immigration Department, has made a list of almost 100 migration-related positions the parties have, in a kind of muted way, placed on their platforms.

Here’s a look at subjects the parties are taking on — and avoiding:

1. Immigration levels — how much is enough?

The Peoples Party of Canada, which is running at seven per cent in the polls, is the only party challenging the Liberals’ rising immigration targets.

Even Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have been muted during the campaign about how they want to bring in more than 410,000 new permanent residents a year, a hike from the 250,000 when first elected in 2015.

There is no Canadian consensus on immigration levels, which is probably why the Conservatives, NDP, Greens and Bloc have not set any targets. An Angus Reid poll found two of five Canadians say more than 400,000 a year is too many. And Nanos found only 17 per cent believe Canada should accept more immigrants in 2021 than last year.

The PPC recommends lowering the target to 100,000 to 150,000 a year.

The main Liberal talking point on migration so far has been to falsely claim the Conservatives, when they were in power, lowered immigration levels. Meanwhile, the Conservatives are emphasizing giving more choice about immigration to each province.

2. Canadians feel compassion, and exasperation, on refugees

One of the few migration issues to attract wide media coverage has been asylum seekers, which Canada has long been a leader in welcoming.

The focus has been on the tens of thousands who have been walking across Canada’s land border from the U.S. in a manner some call “illegal” and others call “irregular.”

In the past few years, more than 50,000 people seeking asylum have poured across the border, 90 per cent at a remote unchecked entry way in Quebec called Roxham Road. The vast majority are not Americans, but people recently arrived in the U.S. from Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

The disarray has caused irritation among two of three Canadians. They don’t think it’s fair people are being advised to take advantage of a loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement, which rules that asylum seekers must apply for refugee status in the first “safe” country in which they land. The loophole is that the agreement does not apply to those who cross at a non-official checkpoint.

This is one of the few migration issues the parties are openly disputing. The Conservatives and PPC want to close the loophole, which would restrict the flow. The NDP and Liberals are silent. And the Greens and Bloc want to ditch the Safe Third Country Agreement, which some say would encourage more to seek asylum.

In the meantime, the Liberals have promised to bring in 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan — and the Conservatives don’t disagree. The Conservatives also promise to welcome more Hong Kong people fleeing China’s totalitarian hand, as well as LGBQT people escaping persecution.

3. Multicultural signalling

While European politicians across the spectrum have questioned the concept of multiculturalism for more than a decade, that’s not the case in Canada, which still promotes the ideal of maintaining distinct ethnic cultures within one country.

The Citizenship Guide has been a point of contention. The Liberals have put together a “progressive’ version of the workbook of Canadian history, law and culture that all immigrants are tested on before they can become citizens. But the party decided not to publish it before this election.

It would seem the Liberal party doesn’t want to make its version of The Citizenship Guide a campaign bull’s-eye because reports suggest it will rankle a portion of Canadians by the way it emphasizes the country’s history of racism and discrimination.

Even though a Maru poll found only three per cent of Canadians name “stopping racism” as a leading election concern, the Liberals and NDP are signalling extensive commitments to racial equity. The Liberals alone have announced five different affirmative-action programs for Black people.

For their part, the Conservatives don’t have a platform on multiculturalism. But the party made a gesture to Ukrainian Canadians by promising to make it unnecessary for Ukrainians to have a visa to come to Canada.

Meanwhile, the PPC would repeal the official Multiculturalism Act. The NDP would institute a national plan to dismantle “far-right extremist organizations.” And the Bloc would appoint a commission to prevent ethnocultural “honour crimes.”

4. Mostly silence on international students and guest workers

In a typical year, Canada welcomes more than 600,000 international students, plus 400,000 temporary workers on various visas.

The international students alone are said to bring $23 billion a year into the economy. They contribute to the finances and classrooms of Canadian universities and colleges. International students also receive preferred status for immigration.

Despite the ramifications of Canada’s unusually large foreign-student population, not one party bothered to mention it. And that’s despite problems with the program, such as Statistics Canada data showing up to one in three come to Canada and then do not go to school.

Some parties do, however, have modest things to say about guest worker policy. The PPC would limit the numbers and ensure they’re “not competing with Canadians,” while the Liberals and Conservatives would create “a trusted employer system” to reduce administrative burdens on bosses.

5. No talk about how migration impacts wages, housing

This year B.C.’s former top civil servant, Don Wright, wrote a paper that maintained large-scale migration could be contributing to the 40-year stagnation of middle-class wages in Canada and could be exacerbating high housing prices.

While supporting solid immigration levels, Wright and many economists suggest Ottawa should improve its integration policies by boosting productivity and creating more infrastructure — especially housing.

There is, however, no mention of housing in the almost 100 positions taken on migration by Canada’s six political parties.


Douglas Todd: ‘Get real’ estate! Five reasons to doubt Trudeau’s housing promises

Of note. Leave it to the housing experts for a comparative assessment of party housing promises and their electoral positioning:

Justin Trudeau has abruptly switched into the role of housing-affordability radical.

But it remains to be seen how many Canadians will buy the Liberals’ brazen new wave of promises — including a ban on foreign purchases, a tax on property flipping and restrictions on exploitive real-estate agents — since there is much cause for skepticism.

Weighing the party’s credibility is crucial since polls are suddenly showing housing affordability (not COVID) is one of the electorates’ top concerns. That’s like the B.C. election in 2017, which saw provincial Liberal leader Christy Clark, who relied heavily on developer donations, turfed in favour of the NDP.

All federal parties’ housing platforms require scrutiny, but here are five reasons voters are justified in feeling suspicious about the prime minister’s sudden conversion to housing activist, a persona he adopted last week to profess: “You shouldn’t lose a bidding war on your home to speculators. It’s time for things to change.”

1. Trudeau has done remarkably little to address an expanding housing crisis

Housing prices across the country have jumped more than 50 per cent cent on average under Trudeau’s watch.

This glaring reality was captured in a recent devastating sound bite, when a heckler at a Trudeau rally in Ontario bellowed: “You had six years to do something. You’ve done nothing. These houses are worth $1.5 million. Are you going to help us pay $1.5 million? Are you, buddy?”

While in power, Liberal promises to address soaring prices have added up to zero. Take, for instance, the commitment Trudeau made in B.C. during the 2019 campaign, to bring in a one-per-cent tax on purchases by “non-resident, non-Canadians.” Nothing happened.

Similar vacuous pledges came to mind last week when the Trudeau stole the Conservatives’ idea to place a two-year ban on all foreign property purchases. Only two months earlier, the Liberals had voted against a Conservative opposition-day motion to do just that.

Many Liberals, federal and provincial, have long claimed it’s xenophobic to restrict foreign buyers in Canada. They’re only now toning down their race-baiting.

The Liberals have long failed to address foreign capital flooding into real estate — as revealed, yet again, this week. A South China Morning Post article by Ian Young showed Ottawa spent five years covering up an old Canada Revenue report detailing how “rich migrants made more than 90 per cent of luxury purchases” in Burnaby and Coquitlam “while declaring refugee-level incomes.”

It also became even harder in the past few days to accept Trudeau’s authenticity on taxing house flipping when it was uncovered the Liberals’ star candidate in Vancouver-Granville had flipped 21 properties. Liberals’ coziness with real-estate insiders runs deep (as it does for many politicians).

2. The Liberals have purposely increased ‘demand’ for housing

It was more than odd when Trudeau came to Vancouver in August and said “you’ll forgive me if I don’t think about monetary policy … You’ll understand that I think about families.”

It’s impossible to believe the prime minister doesn’t comprehend that monetary policy — in the form of extremely low interest rates and his government’s rapid printing of money in response to the pandemic — have helped jack up prices.

While the Liberals are joining the Conservatives and NDP in making big pledges to increase the construction of housing, many analysts are shocked that some promises Trudeau is making will further inflate prices.

Trudeau’s talk about tax-free housing accounts for first-time buyers, along with other credits, will super-charge demand even more, particularly among young people who can’t afford to stretch further. The size of new mortgages in Canada are soaring far into the danger zone.

It looks, however, like many millennials aren’t buying the new Liberal rhetoric; Leger polling has found the party has been losing support among young adults.

3. Ottawa has done little to combat money laundering via real estate

Prominent housing analyst Stephen Punwasi says former Vancouver Sun reporter Sam Cooper’s book, Wilful Blindness: How A Network of Narcos, Tycoons and CCP Agents Infiltrated The West, is “the most important book on Canadian real estate you’ll read this year.”

Wilful Blindness describes how transnational multi-millionaires and criminals, rooted in China, Mexico and elsewhere, have exploited the country’s real estate, which is “Canada’s soft spot for economic infiltration.” Cooper’s book describes many egregious examples of how “dirty” offshore money has been transformed into “clean” money through Canadian housing, especially via property flipping.

What have the Liberals done to crack down on money laundering in urban real estate? Though the Liberals said they would gradually direct $69 million into strengthening RCMP investigation of money laundering, B.C. Attorney General David Eby and others have urged Ottawa to go much further — and institute U.S.-style racketeering laws, which are credited with dismantling Mafia families.

4. The Liberals keep hiking immigration levels

Economists — from banks, universities and developers’ organizations — have in recent years acknowledged one of the biggest factors affecting Canadian housing and prices is population growth through immigration.

Despite, or because of, this, Trudeau has steadily increased Canada’s immigration target since being elected in 2015, hiking it from 250,000 to 400,000 a year, with B.C. an especially popular destination.

UBC geographer Dan Hiebert has found the typical value of a detached Metro Vancouver home owned by a new immigrant in 2017 was $2.3 million, $800,000 higher than a dwelling owned by a Canadian-born person.

An SFU study found “hidden foreign ownership,” particularly through satellite families in which breadwinners make their money offshore, is a significant reason prices have no connection to local wages. It all adds up to help cut into the hopes of both domestic Canadians and newcomers with modest resources.

Source: Steve Saretsky, Vancouver housing analyst

5. It’s worse than ironic Trudeau now says, ‘The deck is stacked against you’

In light of the prime minister showing almost no interest in protecting the young from soaring prices, it was more than perplexing to last week see him act like a white knight taking on an out-of-control real-estate system.

Who knows if the identity switch will get votes? But Trudeau’s latest self-image echoes that of the Liberals’ talkative housing secretary, Adam Vaughan, who in April let slip that Canada is “a very safe market for foreign investment, but not a great market for Canadians looking for choices around housing.”

While Vaughan revealed the Liberals’ strategy has been to support “a very good system of foreign investment creating a lot of new housing in Canada as we add immigrants and grow the population,” he cautioned it would be terrible to bring in any policy that could cause  homeowners to see “10 per cent of the equity in their home suddenly disappear overnight.”

There it is. Two months ago the Liberals were firmly on the side of homeowners wanting to profit. Last week Trudeau suddenly became a champion of those frozen out of ownership.

You’re forgiven for thinking you are witnessing pure electoral posturing.

Source: Douglas Todd: ‘Get real’ estate! Five reasons to doubt Trudeau’s housing promises

Douglas Todd: Not much difference between Islamophobia and Christophobia

Or any other religious phobia.
In terms of hate crimes, official and unofficial statistics show a difference, as church burnings and attacks were virtually unheard of until the “discovery” of unmarked graves at former residential schools.
The extent of discrimination, bias and prejudice against Muslims and the Muslim faith is, as numerous surveys have indicated, is of course much higher than with Christians.
“Islamophobia: Dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.”
“Christophobia: Intense dislike or fear of Christianity; hostility or prejudice towards Christians.”                                                    – Oxford Lexico

Is there a difference between Islamophobia and Christophobia?

The Oxford Lexico suggests subtle differentiations. But the similarities are more important: Both terms describe prejudice toward a religious group. And, tragically, in Canada there is now no shortage of shocking displays of both Islamophobia and Christophobia.

There have been assaults on Muslims, some deadly. There has been arson attack after attack on churches. Vandalism against sacred symbols is becoming the norm. Social media pours forth hate speech toward people of faith. Twitter doesn’t seem to care.

And this rising vitriol is not a result of animosity between Muslims or Christians. Something stranger is going on.Most Westerners are familiar with the term Islamophobia: Canadian politicians and others cite it often. As they do the scourge of anti-Semitism. Christophobia (which is also known as Christianophobia or anti-Christianity) is much less invoked: It’s virtually never named by Canada’s elected officials or commentators.

The extended definitions of Islamophobia and Christophobia, however, often refer to how the fear and dislike of these religions is “irrational.” That’s a crucial distinction, because there is little wrong with rational criticism of Christianity or Islam or any other world view, including atheism.

Any wisdom traditions that have been around for more than a millennia and which have so many followers (Islam 1.8 billion, Christianity 2.3 billion) are bound to have produced great things, but also deformities. Free expression includes the right to disapprove of a religion.But what we have been witnessing across Canada in recent months is something else: It’s violent bigotry.

A Muslim family was mowed down last month in a planned truck attack in London, Ont. Last week in Hamilton a Muslim woman and her daughter were openly threatened. These Islamophobic outrages come four years after a gunman killed six people attending a mosque in Quebec City.

And in the past month Christophobia has led to 25 Canadian churches across the country being burned to the ground, defaced or vandalized. In Surrey this week a Coptic Orthodox Church, frequented mostly by immigrants from Egypt, was destroyed by fire.

Journalists can’t keep up with the mayhem. And neither can the police, who are making precious few arrests. They’re silent about these being hate crimes.While brutal religious persecution has been common in many countries for centuries, the wave of attacks, arsons and vandalism in supposedly tolerant Canada is new.

Even though the arsonists aren’t revealing their motives, the church attacks appear to be a reaction to reports of hundreds of unmarked graves being found near government-funded residential schools, which began operating in the late 1800s.

There is now no shortage of rhetoric inciting the loathing of churches Ottawa hired to run many of the schools. But most of the online animosity is not coming from Indigenous people.

While many Indigenous leaders are angry at the legacy of the defunct school system, dozens of chiefs have decried the destruction of churches, including those on First Nations territory — given that a majority of Indigenous people are Christian.

Many “allies” of Indigenous people, however, are too ignorant and arrogant to listen to the chiefs’ messages.

Try inserting the term “Catholic church” into Twitter and see the casual contempt from non-Indigenous people. You’ll quickly find young influencers like @buggirl, who says, “if i don’t get to see the catholic church crash and burn to the ground within my lifetime i swear to f—ing god….”

Tragically, some so-called mainstream figures have fired off similar inflammatory comments. Harsha Walia, executive director of the once-venerable B.C. Civil Liberties Association, reacted to a tweet about the arson of two Catholic churches by remarking, “Burn it all down.” Which, her defenders say, is also a call for decolonization. At least she “resigned.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, despite diverting attention from Ottawa’s control of the schools by calling on the pope to apologize, has cautiously called the arson attacks “unacceptable and wrong.” But Trudeau’s long-time friend and former principal secretary, Gerald Butts, remarked on Twitter they are “understandable.”Meanwhile, Surrey’s Coptic Church leaders on Monday prodded B.C. Premier John Horgan to do more than blandly say earlier that burning down churches “is not the way forward.” Despite his meek statement on Twitter, many non-Indigenous activists mocked the premier for suggesting Christians deserve respect.

For some twisted reasons the burning of churches does not horrify a certain cohort.

It’s a cohort that would presumably be the first to say, rightly, it’s never “understandable” to attack a mosque — or a gurdwara, synagogue or Buddhist or Hindu temple.Do those who “understand” the torching of church sanctuaries forget Ottawa established residential schools in the first place? Would they support burning the Parliament Buildings? (I’m afraid to hear the answer.)

Maybe the rationale for believing it’s fine to hate Christianity and Christians is they represent the “dominant” religion of white Canada. The trouble with that is church attenders are a minority in the 21st century in Canada – and secular places like B.C. have never have been “Christian” provinces.

That’s not to mention two out of five immigrants to Canada are Christians. And a large proportion of Canadian Christians are people of colour: More than 120 Chinese churches, for instance, are peppered throughout Metro Vancouver, serving roughly 100,000 ethnic Chinese people. There are now 600 million Christians in Africa and 400 million in Asia.

The new Canadian brand of Christophobia seems most linked to those who trumpet decolonialization. The term originally meant “the process of a state withdrawing from a former colony.” But with almost no one leaving Canada, it’s now a fraught vision for the “removal or undoing of colonial elements” from throughout the land.

What that exactly means is hard to figure. But we are seeing signs of how this once-academic term is being understood by a dangerous fringe who would presumably condemn an Islamophobic attack but adopt a double standard on Christophobic arsons.

“All outbursts of anti-religious violence have at least one thing in common: They convey an ugly intolerance of difference and a refusal to recognize the humanity of an individual or a community,” says Ray Pennings, of Cardus, a Canadian think tank. “I fear church burnings could be an indication that Canadians are losing the ability to discuss faith publicly, using the vocabulary of civility and respect.”

We might never find out what’s going on in the fevered minds of the arsonists. But it’s clear there is tension between Canada’s decolonization movement and the ideals of truth and reconciliation.

For instance, when vandals on the weekend used a metal saw to cut down a decades-old cross overlooking the Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island’s Indigenous leaders again expressed their distress.

Some of the social-media crowd, however, urged replacing the eradicated Christian cross with a totem pole. Which sounds more like rewarding vandals’ criminal behaviour than reconciliation.

Canada is becoming increasingly filled with division and distrust. It’s hard to think it’s going to get better.

Source: Douglas Todd: Not much difference between Islamophobia and Christophobia