Douglas Todd: What would happen to Canadian housing if immigration stopped?

Good range of perspectives covered in this thought experiment:

What would happen to Canada’s housing market if immigration to Canada was substantially reduced or even cut to zero? It’s a crucial question for the public, and for real-estate developers who start new construction projects on the basis of predictions of future sales.

Surprisingly, however, the answers are all over the map.

Some specialists suggest virtually nothing would happen to Canadian housing prices if immigration slowed or ended. Others say the impact would be lower prices and hard times for the powerful real-estate industry.

While there are no immediate signs immigration levels will be reduced — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has increased the immigration rate by more than 30 per cent, to almost 350,000 newcomers a year — the issue is central to the dreams and anxieties of Canadian residents who either own homes or want to imagine the possibility.

Two Ontario real-estate specialists recently wrote in the Financial Post that, based on studies, the “overall impact of immigration on housing markets is modest at best in most cases.”

The most startling research spotlighted by Murtaza Haider, of Ryerson University, and Stephen Moranis, a Toronto real-estate insider, maintained that immigration has virtually no impact on overall Canadian housing prices.

The authors of that contentious study, Ahter Akbari and Yigit Aydede of Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, claimed immigration adds an insignificant $1 to every $1,000 people in Canada spend on housing.

Could that be true?

UBC geography professor emeritus David Ley, whose findings differ from the 2012 paper by the Saint Mary’s profs, said in an interview their study looks at the period from 1996 to 2006 and doesn’t focus on urban regions, which his analyses do. Ley has consistently found a close correlation between strong immigration and high housing prices in global cities.

In that way the Saint Mary’s paper sidesteps an increasingly plain-to-see phenomenon: Housing prices vary according to where immigrants choose to live. And for the most part they stream into major cities, especially sky-high Toronto and Vancouver.

Indeed, the authors of the Financial Post article that cites the Saint Mary’s study apparently contradict themselves at the end of their piece, after repeating the impact of immigration is “modest at best” on housing.

“The more important realization,” Haider and Moranis say in their last sentence, “is that an absence of immigration would result in a declining population and aging of the workforce, which could have a much larger negative impact on Canadian housing markets.”

So, which is it? Immigration has almost no influence on housing? Or the population growth it brings has a tremendous impact?

Simon Fraser University’s Josh Gordon, a specialist in public policy, says it’s crucial to follow through on the “counter-factual” question, to imagine a scenario not currently in the cards: What would happen to housing prices if immigration levels reduced to zero?

The real-estate industry, Gordon said, repeatedly says it must build more housing faster because the Canadian population is growing rapidly, predominantly because of immigration.

The development industry’s repeated warnings, Gordon said, that Metro Vancouver and Toronto property must be rezoned at higher density and that rents will continue to rise would be thrown into disarray with the ending of immigration.

“What’s revealing is that when certain members of the real-estate industry try to generate a fear-of-missing-out mentality (FOMO), as well as the expectation that prices will rise over time, their typical move is to emphasize how many people will be arriving on a yearly basis and how large the population will eventually be,” Gordon said.

“The actions of those organizations belie the idea that immigration is not likely to have much impact on prices.”

There is evidence housing prices would dramatically adjust if immigration stopped.

After all, the populations of Metro Vancouver and Toronto experience net growth of about one per cent a year, almost entirely from foreign-born newcomers, who need places to live. That does not include the  high portion the two cities take in of the roughly one million international students and temporary visa workers who are now in Canada at any one time.

And a recent study by Statistics Canada researchers found the detached houses bought by recent immigrants to Metro Vancouver are, on average, valued $824,000 higher than such homes owned by people born in Canada. In Toronto the cost of recent immigrants’ homes was about $50,000 higher than that of the domestic born.

UBC geographer Daniel Hiebert, in addition, showed in a peer-reviewed study that recent immigrants, especially those from China, show statistically greater determination than Canadian-born citizens to buy housing in Canada’s three major cities. “First and foremost,” Hiebert says, “immigration policy is, essentially, also a form of housing policy.”

The Urban Development Institute, which represents property developers, makes no bones about how housing supply must be expanded to support immigration.

“Over the next 25 years, our province is expected to grow by more than 1.4 million people, partly as a result of the federal government’s plan to raise immigration 13 per cent by 2020,” UDI president Anne McMullin recently wrote. “That means we must work together to create new homes if we want our children and grandchildren to have a future in B.C.”

A related June study by Gordon found a near-perfect correlation between housing unaffordability and foreign ownership in certain Metro Vancouver municipalities. Gordon discovered, for instance, that Vancouver, Richmond and West Vancouver are not only the most unaffordable municipalities, they are the one most attracting millionaire migrants and their wealth.

There is a complicating factor, however, as there often is when trying to understand the mass global movement of people and money.

Gordon emphasizes that immigration levels and foreign ownership, which he defines as “housing owned primarily on the basis of foreign income or wealth,” are related. But they’re different, too.

“There is some overlap to the extent that immigration, as it happens in Canada, involves many people arriving with significant amounts of wealth,” Gordon said. “But debates about immigration are largely distinct, though not entirely, from debates around foreign ownership, even while certain people have tried to conflate the two.“

How do the foreign-buyers taxes in B.C. and Ontario, as well as B.C.’s speculation tax, fit into the discussion of housing prices? Those measures are focused on foreign ownership, not immigration levels, Gordon said.

“The point of the measures in relationship to foreign ownership is to discourage the de-coupling of the housing market from the labour market, to discourage the use of large amounts of foreign capital to purchase property in Canada,” said Gordon.

“Measures around foreign ownership are about levelling the playing field for local working people. Measures around immigration are different. The irony is that measures to limit or curtail foreign ownership may in fact be beneficial for many new immigrants, because new immigrants who do not arrive with vast amounts of wealth are doubly disadvantaged in the housing market.”

It can take a while to get one’s head around the global forces running through Canadian housing.

But no matter which way you look at the impact of large-scale immigration, and foreign capital, on key sectors of Canada’s vigorous housing market, it’s undeniable they’re profoundly connected — and that decisions made about immigration will indeed always be a form of housing policy.

Source: Douglas Todd: What would happen to Canadian housing if immigration stopped?

Immigration’s impact on Canadian economy cuts many ways for economists

Good summary of what the data shows, largely based on UBC economist David Green:

Are immigrants good for the Canadian economy?

Forty-five per cent of Canadians answer “yes” to this broad question, while 22 per cent say “no” and 33 per cent are not sure. There’s an argument to be made those who told Ipsos pollsters they don’t know are the most honest — and also the most realistic.

Most Canadians don’t follow the economists who track how immigration and temporary workers have an impact on Canada. If they did, they’d soon realize economists’ findings often conflict with the views championed by corporate executives and politicians.

Canada’s traditionally high immigration rates actually cut many unpredictable ways. The more than 300,000 immigrants and 700,000 temporary migrants recently arriving in the country help expand the overall economic pie. But to most economists that doesn’t mean much.

Economists, instead, mine data to discover whether average wages rise or fall because of migration, which types of migrants do best, whether a foreign education or offshore work translates to Canadian success and how much it matters to be proficient in English or French.

UBC economist David Green says it can be misleading to emphasize the gross domestic product. Yet I’d suggest it’s what almost half of Canadians are probably thinking about when they tell pollsters immigration is good for the economy.

“The size of the whole economy is not really what we care about. What we really care about is per capita income. We care about how much each one of us gets in income,” Green said in an interview.

“Think about whether you’d rather be living in India or living here, just in terms of your material wealth. India, in terms of GDP, is bigger than us. But in terms of GDP per capita we’re way ahead of them. So you’d rather be in a rich society than a big society.”

Designing immigration policies mainly to boost the GDP “makes little sense,” Green says. That is, unless you’re a business owner who wants a bigger market for your product (such as real estate or automobiles) and more choice in who you can hire.

Here’s a second lesson from economists: When it comes to what really matters for most Canadians — per capita wages — Green explains the impact of immigration is over time “very close to zero.”

The extreme boosters or critics of immigration, as a result, may have to tone down their rhetoric in light of findings by Green and others that, overall, immigrants neither “steal jobs” nor “magically grow them either.”

Here are eight other discoveries economists have made about migration:

New immigrants aren’t doing as well in Canada as in the 1980s

Historical graphs show immigrants’ earnings, compared to that of the native-born in Canada, were strongest in the 1980s and declined precipitously until about 2003, when they slowly began improving.

There are two reasons for this decline in the 1990s, says Green. One is that all new entrants to Canada’s labour market, including domestic-born, struggled with lower wages during that period. The other is that fewer immigrants came from Europe.

Language matters, a lot

Economic studies have consistently shown the most successful immigrants to Canada are those who are adept at English or French. “There is a positive correlation between language skills and earnings,” says Green.

Source country also makes a difference

“People from source countries where English or French is not the main language, or with different educational institutions, do less well in the Canadian economy … compared to immigrants from Northern Europe or the U.S.,” says Green.

When Australia introduced stricter language testing of immigrants, economist Andrew Clarke and others found immigrants earned higher incomes. But that could be because the new language demands led to more people going to Australia from Europe.

Foreign degrees not quite as valuable as Canadian degrees

Immigrants with a foreign degrees don’t always gain greatly from it, unless they’re literate in French or English, according to economist Joseph Schaafsma.

“The implication is that, on average, immigrants have lower returns on education because their education skills are not as productive in the Canadian economy,” says Green, who nevertheless adds it’s still valuable to select educated immigrants.

It might help if Canadian officials improved efforts to recognize the credentials of people trained outside the country, Green says, “but it won’t be a panacea.”

Offshore work experience doesn’t pay off as expected

This is a harsh reality for many new immigrants.

“Foreign-acquired work experience obtains a zero return in Canada,” both Green and Carleton’s Christopher Worswick discovered. Work skills that immigrants develop in their home countries might not be as useful in the Canadian labour market as they would like.

While it’s hard to pin down exactly why immigrants do not benefit greatly from work experience in a foreign land, Green says it could partly be attributed to “discrimination.” But it’s also a result of old-country experience not easily transferring to a new land.

There are winners and losers in migration

Although the across-the-board impact of immigration on Canadian wages is flat, some low-wage workers can get hit.

American economist Giovanni Peri is among those who have found that relatively recent immigrants can be financially hurt when a new wave of immigrants arrives soon after them.

Although U.S. evidence doesn’t translate easily to Canada, it suggests immigration can have a negative impact on the wages of lower-skilled workers, including both immigrants and the native-born. Some domestic workers adjust by moving into jobs that require strong English-language skills.

There can also be negative impacts on the wages of those in the host society when temporary workers come to Canada, says the University of Ottawa’s Pierre Brochu. The number of temporary workers in Canada, including the low-skilled, has roughly doubled since the 2015 election of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Immigrants tend to pay less in taxes

Since immigrants start in Canada with earnings that are below the national average before they gradually catch up, Green says it “implies they will tend, on average, to contribute less to the public purse.”

Immigrants lean to self-employment and small businesses

Even though commentators point to the way immigrants appear slightly more likely than the native-born to “create businesses,” the trend is a bit more complicated.

“We find that immigrants are more likely to open firms, but they are much more likely to be spells of self-employment, rather than incorporated firms that employ others,” says Green. “And even the incorporated firms tend to be small.”

• • •

Although the financial data is not all rosy for immigrants to Canada, it doesn’t mean most don’t benefit from leaving their homeland.

Most economists agree nearly all immigrants gain tremendously by moving to a high-wage country such as Canada from their own countries, which typically offer lower wages and are often dysfunctional.

What’s more, the United Nations’ Happiness Report, co-run by UBC economist David Helliwell, finds that immigrants who move from “unhappy” countries (where residents report low rates of life satisfaction) to happier ones such as Canada soon end up as happy as the host society.

In addition, many immigrants make their life-changing move to a new land as part of a long game for their families, so their children can get better educations and grow up in more stable societies and stronger economies.

Indeed, Statistics Canada studies reveal the offspring of immigrants do far better than the native-born in both obtaining university degrees and high-skilled jobs. Says Green: “There are potential gains to Canada as whole from the second generation.”

Many people make sweeping generalizations for and against immigration, but instead of going with bombast, economists show the truth is in the details.

Source: Immigration’s impact on Canadian economy cuts many ways for economists

Douglas Todd: Would-be immigrants to Canada being sold ‘false dreams’

Yet another story on immigration fraud with some examples of more reputable consultants:

The migration agents confronted Vancouver’s Laleh Sahba as she walked on the sidewalk last month near the Canadian embassy in Ankara, Turkey.

The street hawkers told her that, for $25,000 or more, they would get her to an immigration professional who would be sure to hand her a visitor or student visa so she could be well on her way to obtaining a Canada passport.

The sidewalk agents mistook Sahba for another near-desperate Middle Eastern person who would spend almost everything she had for the dream of becoming a permanent resident in Canada, land of promise.

But Sahba — an Iranian-Canadian and a regulated Canadian immigration consultant — says her encounter with Turkey’s street agents was just another reminder how easy it is for people abroad and in Canada to claim to be immigration experts to take vulnerable people for a nasty ride.

“They are selling wrong information. They are making up false dreams,” Sahba said at her downtown Vancouver office. “This is a huge business. And what disturbs me is that many are in it for the money in Canada. They’re playing with people’s lives.”

Sahba, who works with professional immigration partners in the Middle East, is among a small number of Canadian immigration consultants and lawyers who are coming forward to describe the wide range of misinformation, misdeeds and scams being foisted on would-be immigrants.

Some of those posing as immigration specialists are telling anxious people they will eventually get a Canadian passport if they pay large sums, in the tens of thousands of dollars, just to obtain a study or visitor’s visa, which have limited use. Some are also falsely telling clients they can finagle them status as a refugee.

The immigration fantasies of foreign nationals often end in tatters, says Sahba, 40, who came to Canada from Iran two decades ago and has been a consultant for 15 years. Many immigration specialists are making promises they can’t deliver on. By the time most would-be immigrants come to her to find a way out of their migration problems “they are absolutely screwed. We can’t help them.”

Much more must be done, Sahba says, to clean up the fast-growing immigration-advice industry, which in Canada includes 5,400 regulated immigration consultants and 1,000 immigration lawyers, but also an untold number of unlicensed agents.

Marina Sedai, a Surrey immigration lawyer, tends to agree. She told a Conference Board of Canada workshop in Vancouver last month that there is “rampant immigration fraud” being perpetrated by some consultants and agents.

Sedai said she is constantly hearing from troubled clients about how they’ve being misled or defrauded by self-professed experts who demand large fees to guide foreign nationals through Canada’s intricate immigration system.

As national chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s immigration section, Sedai highlighted how her organization has told federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen the system Ottawa has set up to regulate immigration consultants, who have less formal training than lawyers, is not working.  “There are good reasons,” the society said in 2017, “to limit the practice of immigration law to lawyers and Quebec notaries,” with immigration consultants working under the supervision of lawyers.

Many wives are being advised by immigration specialists to get a study visa so their husbands can come to Canada and work and their children can attend school, says Laleh Sahba. The trouble is many wives “don’t really want to study” and end up failing. It leads to big problems for the family.

Sahba, however, believes the majority of regulated immigration consultants do excellent work. Still, she hears at least five times a month from foreign nationals who have become embroiled in shady agreements that involve both Canadian immigration advisers and lawyers.

While Sahba generally supports Ottawa’s aim to make it simpler for some of the more than 500,000 foreign students in Canada to become permanent residents, for instance, she said some advisers are increasingly misrepresenting the study visa program as the backdoor immigration ticket for entire families.

Many wives in their 40s and 50s are being advised, she said, to apply for a study visa so that their husband can come to Canada on a spousal work visa and their children can attend schools in Toronto, Metro Vancouver and elsewhere.

The trouble, Sahba said, is many of the wives are unable to pass English-language exams and “don’t really want to study in the first place.” They begin failing courses and can’t get into postgraduate school, which means they and their husbands and children are expected to return home.

“It’s all over for them. They’ve wasted their time and huge amounts of money. And their kids have in the meantime become used to Canadian society. This is where my heart bleeds.”

In addition to describing scams in which so-called immigration specialists have charged clients many thousands of dollars just for a visitor’s visa, Sahba said other illicit schemes involve provincial immigrant entrepreneur programs, including those operated by Quebec, B.C. and Manitoba.

Since a large number of so-called immigration specialists also have real-estate licences, Sahba says, some become embroiled in housing deals with rich prospective newcomers.

Other advisers direct so-called entrepreneurs to make “passive investments” in Canadian properties or businesses, which often involve nothing more than appearing to transfer money between relatives’ bank accounts.

In one extreme case, Sahba worked with two sisters from Pakistan who transferred more than $170,000 to immigration agents in Canada who said they were arranging the purchases of a gift shop and pet store in Vancouver. The entire process, which involved transferring photos and signatures via Skype, was fake. The culprits couldn’t be tracked.

The Canadian Bar Association, in its attempts to target “incompetent and unscrupulous” immigration advisers, told Canada’s immigration minister in 2017 there had been an “astonishing” 1,470 complaints against the regulated members of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) since it began in 2011, plus 1,115 more against non-members.

That regulatory council posts some of the online allegations against its licensed Canadian immigration consultants, with one ICCRC page describing disciplinary investigations against almost 50 named members, who regularly charged clients $10,000 to $30,000 for relatively small tasks. Many of the consultants are accused of misdeeds such as: “Deceiving client,” “misleading client,” “falsely advising client,” “failing to notify client,” “charging client exorbitant fee” and of “misrepresenting” themselves in a variety of ways, including as border officials.

Sedai said some immigration advisers have even become involved in presenting false job offers to would-be immigrants — an activity she says she has run into in Surrey. Burnaby immigration lawyer George Lee is among those who has tried to expose the widespread jobs deception.  

Although the clients of people who make a living in the immigration industry continue to take part in illicit schemes based on bad advice, Sabha wants to make clear some clients have not been innocent in the process. “They’ve got dirty hands, too.”

And the chances for all concerned of getting caught are increasing.

“The immigration officers are also not stupid anymore, not like in the old days,” Sahba says, chuckling. “They’re smart. And they’re looking at all aspects of every immigration application.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Would-be immigrants to Canada being sold ‘false dreams’

Douglas Todd: Offspring of Chinese and South Asian immigrants reaping high-skilled jobs

The overall national numbers somewhat amplify the differences between visible minorities and not visible minority given rural Canada is overall not visible minority, and where levels of university education are lower. However, even at the city level, the differences are significant in terms of income but with the same relative pattern of visible minority groups that are doing better compared to those that are not:

Second-generation immigrants are proving adept at moving into high-skilled careers in Canada.

The offspring of Chinese and South Asian immigrants, especially women, stand out for obtaining a much higher percentage of high-skill careers in Canada than the rest of the population.

A new Statistics Canada analysis reveals more than 40 per cent of second-generation Canadians of Chinese or South Asian background — the two largest minority groups in Canada — have found mid-career jobs in high-skill sectors.

That compares to less than 30 per cent of second-generation male Southeast Asian or white immigrants — and 20 per cent of white males whose parents are not immigrants. The study’s surprising, mixed results may cause some public-policy makers to re-think their traditional understanding of employment equity.

The StatsCan analysis, by Wen-Hao Chen and Feng Hou, shows children of nearly all immigrants are significantly more educated than their parents. And second-generation Chinese, South Asian, Japanese, Korean and West Asians are obtaining the highest proportion of university degrees and strongest percentage of jobs that rely on such educations.

But other second-generation immigrants — particularly Filipinos, blacks and Latin Americans — are not doing nearly so well at snagging high-skill jobs.

Neither are whites whose parents are not immigrants, whom the report refers to as “third-plus generation whites.” The StatsCan analysis did not include data on Indigenous people, who tend to score low on educational and labour rankings.

“Second-generation Chinese and South Asians, in particular, are over-represented in high-skill occupations relative to third-plus generation whites,” say Chen and Hou.

“About 40 per cent or more of second-generation Chinese, South Asians and West Asian or Arabs worked in high-skill occupations, compared with 20 per cent of men and 31 per cent of women among third-plus generation whites,” says their February study, titled Intergenerational Education Mobility and Labour Market Outcomes.

“The shares of second-generation Filipinos, Latin Americans and blacks working in high-skill occupations were similar to or smaller than those of third-plus generation whites,” said the report, noting that less than 22 per cent of Filipino, Latin American, black immigrants, or white males of Canadian-born parents, were employed in the high-skill sector.

Canadian women are in general doing better than men at obtaining high-skilled work.

Especially excelling are second-generation women of Chinese, South Asian and West Asian/Iranian origins. More than 43 per cent of women in these cohorts work at high-skilled jobs, compared to just 31 per cent of white women who are not the children of immigrants.

The StatsCan report, based on the 2016 census, defines high-skill occupations as those that generally require a university education, such as senior and middle management roles, as well as professions in business, finance, health, applied sciences, education, law, community services, arts and culture.

The report shows a strong link between obtaining a university degree and, before age 45, getting a high-skilled job. The exception was among Filipino, Latin American and black women, whom the report suggested may be vulnerable “to a certain degree of over-education.”

Table 4: Percentage of workers aged 25 to 44 in high-skill occupations among second-generation groups. (Source: Excerpt from Statistics Canada analysis.)

One of the paradoxical findings in the report is that there is not always a direct parallel between getting a university education, obtaining a high-skill job and achieving a strong salary.

“All second-generation groups, both men and women, had higher university completion rates than third-plus generation whites,” write Chen and Hou. Many of the minority cohorts had twice the university completion rate of whites whose parents are not immigrants.

Yet the veteran researchers found university-educated second-generation male Chinese and South Asians end up having roughly the same annual earnings — in the low-$60,000 range — as male whites whose parents have resided in the country for decades.

The levelling out of annual wages among the different ethnic and immigrants cohorts is partly owed to the way the Statistics Canada report tallies only people who obtain university degrees, not those who finish college or technical-school degrees or diplomas.

Chen and Hou note the children of the Canadian-born tend to go to colleges. Other demographers point to how white Canadian males are increasingly avoiding university and finding employment in the trades, such as plumbing, carpentry and electronics, which can often be well compensated compared to jobs in the arts, community and culture sectors.

One factor that might hold back some second-generation Canadians could be language. Chen and Hou suggest male offspring of Latin American and Southeast Asian immigrants end up earning less per year than most males, roughly $45,000 annually, in part because they tend not to speak English at home.

Women in general also earn less per year than most males, regardless of immigration status, according to the Statistics Canada analysis, which suggests that “discrimination” and “cultural factors” could be relevant in regards to the differences between male and female annual earnings.

All in all, data show offspring of immigrants are doing either decently or exceptionally in both higher education and the job market. And this StatsCan analysis of the 2016 census complicates the picture of who is flourishing and struggling in the Canadian workplace.

Source: Douglas Todd: Offspring of Chinese and South Asian immigrants reaping high-skilled jobs

Douglas Todd: Who cares about ‘winning’ the immigration debate?

Good for the Conference Board for inviting some more critical or sceptical voices like Todd (whose articles, as you know, I always find interesting).

On polling data, the picture is more complex than simply presenting one polling firm where the timing, question phrasing and methodology may somewhat skew results (e.g., Environics and Pew present a more positive portrait than IPSOS).

And not sure that immigration policy is developed in any less transparent manner than any other area of government policy, and where stakeholder groups, who follow the issues carefully, have more influence:

Politicians and corporations that want more immigrants in Canada are mounting marketing campaigns to “win the immigration conversation.”

At least the CEOs, think tanks and civil servants are upfront about aiming to promote higher immigration levels, which aligns them with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals.

Where, however, does this leave all the Canadians in the mushy middle? That’s where most Canadians are at, according to immigration department officials and other migration experts who spoke at a Conference Board of Canada event held last week in Vancouver. The gathering was titled, “Winning the Immigration Conversation.”

Not many Canadians are extremists, either for or against current immigration policy or rates, polls suggest. The bulk of the population seems hazy about Trudeau’s plan to continue to increase immigration levels to 350,000 people a year by 2021, up from 260,000 when he was elected in 2015.

My sense is most Canadians are not eager to either “win” or “lose” the immigration discussion. Most of us don’t think immigration boils down to an either/or option. Some of us mostly want to know what’s going on, so we can be informed at the ballot box.

But as some speakers at the Conference Board event noted, Canada’s politicians and mandarins are almost unique in the obscure way they dictate the country’s powerful immigration policies from behind closed doors.

Kareem El-Assal, the senior immigration director for the Conference Board, asked me to speak at the “Winning the Immigration Conservation” conference so participants would not end up in the usual echo chamber, in which everyone basically agrees with each other.

El-Assal had seen my 2017 story on the clubby atmosphere that reigned among the more than 1,000 Canadians who work with immigrants, refugees and international students and attended Montreal’s Metropolis Conference. My article on that gathering was headlined, “The narrow view from the migration sector bubble.”

So I give credit to the corporate-sponsored Conference Board, a booster of high immigration levels, for welcoming diversity of opinion. It turned out some scholars, and even some civil servants, had their own skepticism about Canada’s immigration levels, which are arguably the highest per capita in the world.

I told participants I’m intrigued by philosophy’s two foundational questions: What is real? And how then shall we live? And I bring those questions to immigration matters.

What I’ve discovered in recent years on the migration beat is the vast majority of native Canadians (and to a lesser extent immigrants) don’t have a grasp on what is real about the increasing global migration of people, particularly into Canada. And it’s understandable.

Even though the Conference Board has launched its own campaign for increased immigration, El-Assal revealed data showing most Canadians don’t have the foggiest idea about a basic issue: How many immigrants come into Canada each year.

Only nine per cent of Canadians knew correctly it is between 150,000 and 300,000 annually. What’s worse, El-Assal said, when Canadians learn how many immigrants are actually entering the country, their support goes down.

“The populists may have a point,” Antje Ellerman, a political scientist at UBC, told the Conference Board gathering.

“Canada has a high degree of (immigration) policy-making behind closed doors.” The immigration agenda has “traditionally been dominated by the government and civil servants, and rarely engaged the public in meaningful ways.”

In addition, the complexities of immigration rules are not often covered by the media. That is the unfortunate case even though, for instance, almost half the populations of Toronto and Vancouver are foreign-born.

One concern is that if Canadians are purposely being kept in the dark about immigration developments, and even opposition politicians are afraid of raising the subject for fear of being labelled xenophobic or racist, how can the host society make wise choices about an issue that has defined the country?

Turns out many Canadians are concerned. Only 45 per cent believe immigration is “good for the economy,” according to a new Ipsos poll. Another 57 per cent believe “immigrants place too much pressure on public services,” be that health or transit systems. And almost 60 per cent say government is “hiding the true costs to taxpayers and society.”

Immigration officials are not alone in finding in the past couple of years that there has been a shift among Canadians about immigration. That is part of the reason Ottawa has launched a promotional campaign called #immigrationmatters.

Its public relations effort is getting out stories about immigration successes, especially at the neighbourhood level. Not a discouraging word will be heard from #immigrationmatters, of course, since it will support a major plank in this year’s Liberal campaign.

However, Ellerman is among those who think it unwise for governments in Canada, Europe or elsewhere to ignore the populist voices that worry about immigration. To do so, she said, could feed anti-immigration radicalism.

UBC economics professor David Green offered the audience some data-based realities about immigration.

One finding takes issue with frequent claims by Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen that high immigration is the key to economic prosperity. Green highlighted how immigration has an almost imperceptible effect on long-term Canadian wages, not doing anything at all for per-capita income.

And although boosters of strong immigration frequently maintain it is absolutely necessary to counteract an aging Canadian labour force, Green’s studies show its effect is minimal, almost non-existent.

Immigration numbers would have to jump multiple times over to make even a small dent in the growing portion of seniors in Canada, Green said. In addition, most people who obtain citizenship status in Canada soon try to sponsor older family members to join them.

But immigration is not all about economics. Many of the speakers recognized reliable new opinion surveys show much of the public resistance to high immigration has mostly to do with culture.

Roughly one in two Canadians fear too many immigrants “do not adopt Canadian values.” Many in the host society feel they are losing command of their own cultural identities. Some migration specialists said such feelings should not necessarily be dismissed as xenophobic.

Give the swirl of powerful factors at play, what are we to make of efforts by Ottawa and its supporters to “win the immigration conversation”? Even though organizers of the Conference Board event said they came up with the title to be provocative, I’d say immigration policy needs more balanced attention than that found in win-lose campaigns.

In a democracy, the public could use as much information as possible about migration policy and trends. Who knows what would happen if Ottawa became more transparent? Reality has a funny way of surprising all of us.

Source: Douglas Todd: Who cares about ‘winning’ the immigration debate?

Douglas Todd: B.C. launches rare immigration plan for small towns

Seems like most governments are now developing comparable initiatives: the federal government with the Atlantic Immigration Pilot and the just announced Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, the Alberta UCP’s proposed program, and Manitoba’s approach to the Provincial Nominee Program.

The numbers are small in terms of total immigration but nevertheless can be significant for rural communities:

The B.C. government is venturing out on a rare Canadian effort to lure immigrants to the struggling hinterlands.

Aware that the vast majority of immigrants to the West Coast move into hectic Metro Vancouver, the B.C. government is launching a pilot program to lure entrepreneur immigrants to cities of less than 75,000 people that are distant from major urban centres.

Bruce Ralston, the minister of jobs, trade and technology, said 30 city mayors are already on board with the pilot program, which will give preferential treatment to well-off newcomers who commit to setting up a business in and living in a rural community for at least three years.

Maintaining that B.C.’s overall fertility rates are declining, the website for the so-called entrepreneur immigration regional pilot adds that small cities “face the additional challenge that young people are leaving for larger centres to find opportunities.”

The federal government’s immigration program has never put much effort into directing immigrants to rural areas, largely because immigrants have mobility rights under Canada’s charter and can move wherever they want.

But many migration specialists have urged Canada to develop incentives to shift immigrants to small towns, since 80 per cent of immigrants end up choosing the country’s major cities. About six in 10 recent immigrants squeeze into the three biggest metropolises, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

Manitoba is one of the few innovative provinces that has used its own immigration scheme to divert new workers away from Winnipeg to towns such as Winkler and Altona. And after B.C. quietly announced it’s pilot small-city program months ago, Alberta Opposition Leader Jason Kenney this week promised something similar.

“This has not been tried before in B.C.,” said Ralston, noting that B.C.’s current provincial nominee program, which is sanctioned by the federal government, brings in about 6,000 potential immigrants a year.

The majority come from Asia; choosing Metro Vancouver for the wide job variety and the cultural familiarity of living in a place that already has large populations of Chinese, South Asians, Filipinos, South Koreans and other ethnic groups.

“This pilot program is designed to get people to commit to small communities. They would have to establish a business and stay for a minimum of one year until they obtain permanent resident status, which usually takes another 18 months,” Ralston said .

“Once they have permanent residency the law says they can move wherever they want. But we think the stickiness of establishing a business in a warm community that would be enthusiastic and would wrap their arms around you would be important.”

The pilot program, which may initially accept a couple of hundred applicants, requires would-be immigrants to first visit their chosen community, invest a minimum of $100,000 in a business, have a net worth of at least $300,000 and create at least one job.

The pilot program also requires the applicant to understand English, which, controversially, has not been expected of the hundreds of newcomers welcomed in recent years through B.C.’s existing provincial immigration program for entrepreneurs.

The B.C. government intends to work closely with small-community officials to make the program work and help new arrivals connect with members of their diaspora group, said Ralston. The entrepreneur immigrants will not be allowed to start certain businesses, such as real estate development, bed and breakfasts or hobby farms.

Asked how B.C. officials will monitor whether participants actually live in the towns in which they start a business, Ralston said, “The communities have an interest in this working. The monitoring will be done by the mayors and councils and communities themselves. So if it doesn’t work, I will hear about it pretty fast.”

Simon Fraser University political scientist Sanjay Jeram is one of those who have encouraged Canadian jurisdictions to follow the lead of European nations and create incentives for immigrants and others to settle outside metropolises.

The fact most immigrants to Canada move to Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary adds undue pressure not only to those cities’ housing costs, Jeram said, but to infrastructure, such as traffic and transit.

The inter-provincial migratory flows within B.C. travel many complex directions, however.

Even while it’s accurate to say some young people are leaving rural B.C. towns, a recent Statistics Canada report showed that Aboriginals and whites are leaving Metro Vancouver for other regions of B.C. (especially the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan).

A net total of 9,345 whites and 460 Indigenous people left Metro for other parts of the province in the one-year period ending July, 2016, according to a 2018 Statistics Canada report. The two other demographic groups that are tending to say goodbye to Metro Vancouver are those born in Canada and those between ages 55 and 65.

However, the idea that governments can encourage more immigrants, and perhaps the native-born, to make their lives in the small towns of Canada appears to be picking up steam in Canada, at least provincially.

The idea gained a boost this week when Kenney, a former federal immigration minister who now leads Alberta’s United Conservatives, announced a government led by his party would launch an immigration plan that would attract newcomer entrepreneurs to rural Alberta, in order to get “the best bang for the buck” on who settles in the province.

Meanwhile, Manitoba has been successfully focusing on attracting would-be immigrants to rural towns who are skilled workers, not wealthy business people. While Ralston said a similar small-city program for skilled newcomers has been discussed, he first wants to find out whether the two-year entrepreneur pilot program works in B.C.

dtodd

Source: Douglas Todd: B.C. launches rare immigration plan for small towns

Douglas Todd: Is B.C. immigration program a back door for millionaire house buyers?

Interesting questions regarding a possible backdoor.

A question I find also interesting is looking at reported income through tax returns to get a sense of how well these immigrants are doing and whether their capital that allows them to purchase a house is matched by an ongoing income stream (rhetorical question – see Todd: Tax avoidance behind Metro’s disconnect between housing, income where the data suggests it is not):

How did it come to pass that thousands of people who came to Metro Vancouver through a provincial immigration scheme bought pricey houses?

A Statistics Canada report shows 2,370 people who recently arrived in B.C. through a provincial immigration program have bought single-family houses worth an average of $2.38 million in Metro Vancouver, which is $800,000 above the norm for Canadian-born house buyers.

It’s a startling figure, in part because politicians often trumpet how the relatively small provincial immigration programs were created primarily to fine-tune Ottawa’s bulkier immigration policy by pinpointing the right skilled workers for each local labour market.

Given that the emphasis of so-called “provincial nominee programs” is supposed to be on newcomers looking for a job, how have thousands since 2009 been able to quickly buy pricey Metro Vancouver real estate? It’s difficult to get an answer from officialdom. So we’re left to our own devices to figure out this irregular access.

I’m not alone in suggesting one of the last things most young people need in Metro Vancouver’s unaffordable housing market is to be squeezed out by another stream of foreign capital. The B.C. NDP government is among those trying to crack down on this price-inflating phenomenon associated with “satellite families” who buy stately homes.

But the revealing data is there in the particulars of a January Statistics Canada report. Its charts point to the way many families are coming to Metro Vancouver with large amounts of wealth, which they’ve been funnelling into housing.

Chart shows value of Metro Vancouver detached homes bought by recent newcomers under the Provincial Nominee Program and other immigration investor schemes. (Source: Statistics Canada report titled Immigrant Ownership of Residential Properties in Toronto and Vancouver.)

And it’s not only Metro Vancouver’s housing market that has been hit by millionaire migrants entering through provincial immigration programs. So has Greater Toronto’s. The average price of a Toronto house bought by a recent provincial nominee is $1.06 million, according to the StatsCan report, while the average price of a detached house of Canadian-born owners in Toronto is significantly less, $849,000.

And just as in Metro Vancouver, it is the recent newcomers to Toronto from China who have had the most cash to spend on property. Mainland Chinese make up about two of three of the home buyers in each city who arrived through the nominee program.

The StatsCan report, titled Immigrant Ownership of Residential Properties in Toronto and Vancouver, offers only a snapshot of this provincial nominee mansion phenomenon, however. It doesn’t capture the program’s link to condominiums. And it leaves open speculation about causes.

Therefore, many questions remain outstanding about what is going on with provincial nominee programs, questions which are typically paid little heed.

B.C.’s provincial nominee program brought 6,500 newcomers to the province in 2018, a large jump from the 2,600 it  welcomed a decade earlier.

But it is a puzzle how 2,370 provincial nominees since 2009 were able to quickly buy costly houses in Metro Vancouver, especially when the vast majority of such nominees were classified as “workers.”

Only about one per cent of provincial nominees to B.C. — an average of about 80 a year — arrive under the “entrepreneur” category. They are the ones who are worth more than $600,000 and required to invest $200,000 in a B.C. business. It’s common sense to expect many in this tiny group of entrepreneur/investors to arrive in B.C. with capital and to pump part or most of it into real estate.

That is exactly what happened with the federal government’s investor program, which the Conservatives killed in 2014 because so many rich immigrants were snapping up Canadian property but not operating businesses or paying significant income taxes.

Despite such unintended consequences, a large entrepreneur program continues to be run by Quebec. It cynically takes millions from thousands of rich would-be immigrants each year, even while most hastily move to Vancouver or Toronto.

Indeed, the January StatsCan report shows the average value of a detached house bought by more than 4,400 millionaire immigrants who came to Metro Vancouver in the past decade under Ottawa’s investor program, and the one operated by Quebec, is $3.2 million. That’s unfortunate enough in regards to fuelling high-end prices, with its trickle-down effect to all housing.

But how is it that the much smaller provincial nominee programs of B.C. and perhaps other provinces are also bringing in thousands of wealthy home buyers headed for Vancouver and Toronto?

A spokeswoman for B.C. Ministry of Jobs, Trade and Technology, which oversees the provincial nominee program, wouldn’t venture a guess. “It is good to see newcomers coming to Canada and being able to invest in their own business and homes,” she said. “We are unable to speculate on the amount of foreign capital they bring into Canada.”

The minister of jobs, trade and technology, Bruce Ralston, also declined to comment until he had a look at the Statistics Canada report. “It’s an area where I’d have to have the facts.”

In the meantime here are a few questions that need to be answered.

Is it possible many of the buyers of Metro Vancouver mansions are coming in not only from B.C.’s nominee program, but from other provincial programs, such as that in Prince Edward Island, which was cancelled last year. It was riddled with fraud and hundreds of would-be immigrants used fake addresses to pretend they lived in P.E.I.

Another question is whether people buying expensive Metro Vancouver properties are coming in through a camouflaged nominee category, such as “skilled worker.”

The top occupations of those coming in the past two years under the B.C. provincial nominee’s “skilled worker” category were restaurant and food service employees, including cooks and kitchen helpers, as well truck drivers and retail managers.

While Ralston said he needs to gather more information before commenting on whether immigrants who buy expensive houses in Metro Vancouver are coming in as truck drivers, food workers or another irregular category, he justifiably noted Attorney General David Eby and Finance Minister Carole James are trying to tackle a related aspect of the housing crisis.

The two major aims of the ministers’ new speculation and vacancy tax are to increase housing supply by reducing the number of empty dwellings and by targeting satellite families, who often buy and live in expensive properties but pay little or no income tax in Canada.

Since thousands of millionaire migrants appear to have found backdoor ways to enter Metro Vancouver’s over-priced housing market through the Provincial Nominee Program, it looks as if this scheme is part of the problem. As such it needs far more scrutiny.

Source: Douglas Todd: Is B.C. immigration program a back door for millionaire house buyers?

Douglas Todd: Why populism hasn’t come to (English) Canada. Yet

Eric Kaufmann’s work continues to strike a chord among those with concerns about immigration levels and populism (see for example Margaret Wente’s Can Canada avoid a populist revolt?).

Kaufmann’s explanation of “Canadian exceptionalism” – the English-French divide, a high-percentage of foreign-born, the lack of a Conservative tabloid press (Toronto Sun?), and labelling as racist those who question current immigration levels – tend to leave out some of the early fundamentals that shaped Canada:

  • a culture of accommodation, often imperfect, between English and French Canada, less so with Indigenous peoples, that required recognition and compromise as basic to Canada;
  • a multiculturalism that developed in response to earlier waves of mainly white and Christian immigration;
  • an approach based on integration, as distinct from assimilation, articulated by the 19 Bi & Bi Commission report on the “other groups.”

And if identity has become the “battle front of the 21st century,” does this not reflect in part the fact solutions to economic issues – precarity, inequality – remain elusive.

I also find tiresome the refrain against “cosmopolitan imperialists” and elites. Most of the people engaged in these debates, including Kaufmann, are by definition part of elites in terms of education, income levels, public profiles and the like:

Populism has arisen virtually everywhere in the West, but remains weak in English Canada.

The election of Donald Trump, the Brexit vote, resistance to high immigration in Australia, mounting European nativism and last year’s Quebec election are strong signs that growing centre-right white populism will be tenacious.

It’s often said that people in the U.S. display “American exceptionalism,” the belief they’re uniquely committed to freedom. But there is also a “Canadian exceptionalism,” a deep belief among English Canadians they are uncommonly tolerant and will make a success of multiculturalism when others will not.

A ground-breaking new book by Vancouver-raised political scientist Eric Kaufmann peels back the layers of Canadian exceptionalism while detailing the increasingly tense decline of white populations in Europe, the U.S. and Australia. It places an extra focus on big cosmopolitan cities in which whites are no longer the majority, such as Toronto and Metro Vancouver.

Even though Whiteshift: Population, Immigration and the Future of White Majorities delves into race, culture and identity in ways some will find uncomfortable, the book has attracted supportive reviews across Britain’s vigorous press. It’s being called “insightful,” “valuable,” ”substantial,” “brilliant,” “extraordinarily deep and wide” and far ahead on the immigration discussion.

Whiteshift is bursting with ideas, which synthesize old theories into something altogether novel. They include Kaufmann’s positive argument that declining white populations in the West, to avoid extreme nationalism, will need to embrace what he calls “whiteshift.”

He defines the term as “the turbulent journey from a world of racially homogeneous white majorities to one of racially hybrid majorities.” In other words, Whiteshift envisions a Western world a century from now of predominantly intermarried people who are beige in colour.

But Kaufmann – who is of mixed Latino, Chinese and Jewish ancestry while regularly viewed as white – is not a one-world globalist dreamer, as many say is the case with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Identity has largely replaced economics as the battle front of the 21st century, Kaufmann says. And he understands how many conservative whites are losing confidence in their identity; leading to “a growing unwillingness to indulge the anti-white ideology of the cultural left.”

The Economist agrees, remarking in its review of Whiteshift that nativism is rising because free-market globalism and high immigration have disrupted Western economies and the “culture is dominated by preening elites who not only think they are cleverer than the average person but also that they are more virtuous.”

It is virtually only in the West, says the professor at the University of London, Birkbeck, that the educated feel it necessary to oppose their own culture and celebrate its decline. Although some consider it radical, Kaufmann makes the point that white majorities are an ethnic group whose conservative members have the same normal attachments to group as minority ethnic groups.

Many white people in Europe, of both the right and welfare-state-supporting left, have started resisting the “cosmopolitan imperialists,” he says. Virtually no European politician has dared use the word “multiculturalism” since the 1990s.

But the term still has traction in Canada, where Vancouver pollster Mario Canseco found this month that 62 per cent of Canadians think multiculturalism has been good for the country, while 33% believe it’s been bad.

Because of Canadian exceptionalism, Kaufmann says, English Canada is perhaps the only place left in the Western world where almost all right-wing politicians fear being accused of racism for suggesting immigration levels decline. That’s despite Canadian polls consistently showing roughly four in 10 Canadians think immigration has been a mostly negative force.

French-speaking Quebeckers don’t adhere to the same prohibitions. They recently elected Premier Francois Legault, who this year reduced his province’s immigration rates by 20 per cent in the name of improving integration. Legault even managed to get public support from Trudeau, who has to go along because he can’t afford to alienate francophone voters.

Four of five voters for Brexit ranked immigration as their top concern.

Why has white popularism not taken hold in English Canada, at least not yet?

There are at least three reasons, and one is the English-French language divide. Kaufmann takes seriously the notion that the Conservative party is hemmed in on immigration.

English Canadians who want to reduce immigration, and thus slow the expansion of Asian and other cultures, would normally hope to be supported by the Conservatives. But the party is incapable of allying with like-minded French populists in Quebec, who instead vote for the Bloc Quebecois and Legault’s Coalition Avenir Quebec.

A second reason Kaufmann believes most Canadians quietly accept rapid ethnic change, which comes from having a population that is 21 per cent foreign born, is that “Anglo-Canadians share the relatively pro-immigration outlook common to all Anglo settler societies.”

Given this outlook, he said, English Canada, unlike Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and Britain, “lacks a conservative tabloid press” ready to poke holes in immigration policy.

Kaufmann finds it significant that the highest-profile critics of immigration and multiculturalism in Canada have been people of colour: Writer Neil Bissoondath, academic Salim Mansur and environmentalist David Suzuki. Their minority status, he said, has made it possible for them to “withstand the charge of racism.”

In a revealing chapter, titled Canadian Exceptionalism: Right-wing Populism in the Anglosphere, Kaufmann zeroes in  the battle over foreign capital fueling the housing crisis in Metro Vancouver, where he grew up after being raised in Hong Kong and Japan.

Kaufmann cites how prominent visible minorities, such as Andy Yan, Albert Lo and Ujjal Dosanjh, were able to fight back against claims made by white real-estate developers and politicians that it is “racist” to say that foreign capital, especially from China, has been exacerbating high housing prices.

The Vancouver example leads Kaufmann to the novel idea that, since the Canadian elite generally supports pro-growth, high-immigration thinking, one of the few ways a populist party could emerge in Canada is “if there were a substantial non-white anti-immigration vote or a minority anti-immigration candidate.”

Since that may not happen, Kaufmann predicts the white population of Canada will be in the minority by 2050. Whereas whites in Montreal will account for about seven in 10 people by that date, the proportion will drop to about three in 10 in Toronto and Metro Vancouver.

It could work out, Kaufmann suggests, particularly if immigration policy is changed. But only if English Canadians avoid the kind of hostilities linked with extreme white nationalism. Peace and prosperity will also require people accept that the definition of white is blurring, to include people of mixed races.

Even though regions in which one ethnic group predominates generally experience more unity than those with highly multi-racial societies (such as in Guyana or Belize), Kaufmann foresees a decent chance much of English Canada could end up somewhat like Canada’s largest city.

He envisions a kind of “Toronto-writ-large” across all of English Canada: “A dynamic, low-cohesion, future-oriented society with an attenuated connection to its British and European past.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Why populism hasn’t come to (English) Canada. Yet

Douglas Todd: Jagmeet Singh’s byelection battle in super-diverse Burnaby

More on Burnaby South:

The Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha gurdwara in Burnaby was packed recently for a speech by Jagmeet Singh, the federal New Democratic Party leader.

About 800 people squeezed into the Sikh temple, in the heart of the ethnically super-diverse riding of Burnaby South, where Singh is fighting for the first time win a seat as a federal MP. The Punjabi-language Sach Di Awaaz newspaper ran 12 photos of the event featuring the Ontario-based politician.

At the gurdwara this week, Sikhs said they want Singh to win, hoping he’ll make moves to improve education and the job market. A variety of ethnic Chinese and Caucasians walking in the vicinity of the temple also said they intend to vote for Singh, with one man remarking he hoped it will “shake things up.”

Ethnicity has already been highlighted as a factor in the crucial Burnaby South byelection.

A member of the Burnaby gurdwara holds a copy of the free bi-weekly Sach Di Awaaz newspaper that shows NDP candidate Jagmeet Singh at to speak to hundreds of people.

This week, media reported on the way Liberal candidate Karen Wang said in a WeChat post that, as the only Chinese candidate, she could beat Singh, who she noted is of “Indian descent.” Wang said the post was written by a campaign volunteer, but she took responsibility for it and apologized to Singh. Under pressure from the Liberals for her remark, Wang dropped out of the race, although she hinted Thursday there is a slim chance she’ll run as an independent.

Burnaby is known as one the most diverse cities in Canada, if not the world. An earlier Vancouver Sun study found there’s a 73 per cent chance that two randomly chosen people from Burnaby will be of a different ethnicities. For comparison, the chance is just 34 per cent in Ottawa.

The riding of South Burnaby is almost 40 per cent ethnic Chinese, 30 per cent white, eight per cent South Asian (a category that includes most Sikhs), six per cent Filipino and three per cent Korean.

Given the riding’s eclectic ethnic makeup, the proportion of South Asians and Sikhs within it is not nearly as large as it is in other pockets. The modest Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha gurdwara is the only Sikh temple in South Burnaby, whereas there are many gurdwaras serving the large Sikh populations concentrated in places such as Surrey and the western suburbs of Toronto.

The successful campaign of Singh, a turban-wearing orthodox Sikh, for the 2017 NDP leadership relied significantly on him visiting gurdwaras and drumming up support from Sikhs, who almost all have roots in the Punjab region of India.

Such South Asians were tremendous financial supporters of Singh during the leadership race, which he surprisingly won with 54 per cent of the vote on the first ballot.

Elections Canada data shows Singh collected $603,000 in the year of the NDP leadership convention. More than nine out of 10 of his donors in that year had South Asian names, specifically Punjabi and Sikh (Sikhs often include “Singh” or “Kaur” as one of their names).

Donors to Singh’s leadership campaign — which boasted about signing up a dramatically high number of new NDP members — hailed heavily from the western Toronto suburbs of Brampton and Mississauga, and from Surrey. More than a third of Singh’s 2017 campaign funding came from those three municipalities alone.

The federal Liberals have also long been aware of the political power linked to the related issues of ethnicity and immigration status. They could be major factors in the riding of South Burnaby, since six in 10 residents of the riding are either immigrants or non-permanent residents. That’s triple the national average of two out of 10.

The Trudeau Liberals frequently highlight how they are increasing Canada’s annual immigration levels to 340,000, from 250,000 in 2015 under the Conservatives. And Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen has recently been goading the Conservatives on Twitter for not being as supportive of family-reunification programs, which are especially important to many extended South Asian families.

At the gurdwara in South Burnaby this week, some visitors supported the Liberals’ moves to increase the number of sponsored spouses, parents, and grandparents permitted into Canada under the family-reunification program. People interviewed at the gurdwara, who did not want their names used, said they had relatives in the Punjab they would like to bring to Canada.

How much is ethnicity, culture, immigration status and religion a factor in Canadian politics? Some people on social media found it controversial in 2018 that Caucasian candidates for city councils in Metro Vancouver appeared to be relatively more successful than candidates from other ethnic groups, leading to the derogatory Twitter hashtag #councilsowhite.

Data have not been made publicly available in Canada, however, on the extent that people of any particular ethno-cultural group vote for candidates of their own ethnicity. Privately, though, Canadian political party strategists often target voters based on which group they belong to. The federal Conservatives, for instance, have over the years won many votes from evangelical Christians.

But since the NDP candidate for Burnaby South won the riding in 2015 with only 500 more votes than the Liberal candidate, Singh will need to work hard to appeal to voters outside his own ethno-cultural-religious group if he is to hold onto the seat for the party he now leads.

Source: Douglas Todd: Jagmeet Singh’s byelection battle in super-diverse Burnaby

Douglas Todd: Chinese students’ river of cash unlikely to dry up

Speculation, of course, but my guess:

A business college at the University of Illinois has taken out an insurance policy against the potential catastrophic loss of revenue from high-fee-paying students from China.

Educators and social-media commentators are expressing fears the river of money flowing from Chinese students into Canada, the U.S., Britain and Australia will dry up because of a brewing trade war and the arrest in Vancouver of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou.

The government of China has said it has more than 600,000 students studying abroad, the vast majority of them in English-language countries. Highly desired Canada has more than 186,000 of them, according to China’s Toronto consulate (the federal government’s figure is slightly lower). That means China’s young people make up roughly one in three of all 500,000 international students in Canada.

Despite China’s ambassador to Canada last week hammering English-speaking countries as “arrogant” and rife with “white supremacy” for their defence of Meng’s arrest, there is no sign that China’s leaders are ready to follow the lead of Saudi Arabia’s rulers, who reacted to Canada’s human rights comments last year by calling back most of the Saudi students in Canada.

“I don’t think the Chinese will be as petulant as the Saudis were, or as unsophisticated, although they may make more subtle changes over time,” Andrew Griffith, a migration researcher and former senior director in Canada’s Immigration Department, said.

Canada could even attract more Chinese students in the future in part because the number entering the U.S. appears to be flattening out, possibly because of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric about China and immigrants. That’s why Illinois business college dean Jeffrey Brown, realizing his school had become highly dependent on Chinese students’ money, took out an insurance policy with Lloyd’s of London.

Canada hosts eight times more Chinese students per capita than the U.S., suggesting this country’s educational institutions are more dependent on, if not addicted to, their fees than U.S. colleges. Some higher-education researchers are calling the phenomenon “academic capitalism.”

It’s the expanding trend in English-language countries to make up for steadily eroding taxpayer funding of schools, colleges and universities by capitalizing on the full fees paid by students from mostly well-off families from around the world, with China providing by far the biggest group.

Some Canadian educators, and researchers like Mengwei Su and Laura Harrison of Ohio University, say the intense concentration of Chinese students in Western schools brings with it drawbacks, however, mainly for the students themselves.

Even though Western universities welcome Chinese students as “a particularly lucrative market,” Su and Harrison found many of the young Chinese struggle with English and integrating into Western culture — partly because they are ending up in classrooms and living situations dominated by other students from China.

“Seventy per cent of the students in my class are from China,” one Chinese student told the Ohio researchers, describing the sense of social segregation. “The class is not much different from that in our country,” said another Chinese pupil. One young woman from China opted to study in the Netherlands rather than North America, saying, “I want to avoid too many Chinese students.”

Against a backdrop in which the taxpayer-funded proportion of the operating budgets of B.C.’s public universities has drastically declined in recent decades, more than half the foreign undergraduate students at Simon Fraser University, more than 2,700, now come from China.

The University of B.C. has 5,000 students from China, almost one third of its international student population. Scores of public high schools, colleges and two-room private language institutes also take in hefty fees from the roughly 50,000 Chinese students in B.C., mostly Metro Vancouver.

The dark blue at the top of this chart indicates more than half the undergraduate international students at Simon Fraser University since 2011 have come from China. (Source: SFU)

The federal Liberal government is busily wooing more Chinese students, however. Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen is following the enthusiastic lead of former minister John McCallum and saying “We’ll do whatever we can” to bring in an increasing number of students from China.

Hussen maintains international students in Canada, whose numbers have been recently jumping by roughly one quarter annually, funnel $11.6 billion a year into Canada’s economy, adding they also enhance “cultural exchange.” To make it easier for more Chinese students to jet across the Pacific Ocean to Canada, the Liberal government recently opened seven new visa centres in China. Hussen acknowledged such students can contribute to the housing and rental squeeze in cities such as Toronto and Metro Vancouver, particularly since many offshore parents buy Canadian homes for their offspring.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen says “We’ll do whatever we can” to bring in an increasing number of students from China.

Western “higher education institutions are slowly evolving into a corporate-like enterprise that pursues monetary gains, at times eclipsing their educational mission,” write Su and Harrison, of Ohio University, echoing growing sentiment among scholars of higher education.

The Ohio researchers found a key financial problem is that some overseas recruiting “agents” are exploiting international students, with more than half the Chinese students they surveyed hiring these advisers to navigate their complicated route to the West.

The trouble with agents dominating the field of global education, according to Su and Harrison, is many are providing misinformation to students, steering them to inappropriate schools and not warning them about how difficult it will likely be to learn workable English. Many students get stuck in never-ending English-remediation classes.

To root out abuse and increase overseas families’ trust in such agents, Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Ireland have developed a code to regulate them, say Thompson Rivers University researchers Victoria Handford and Halying Li.

But Canada has not signed on to the protocol, which is designed to ensure the agents behave more ethically.

Meanwhile, Canada’s recruiting continues apace.

Source: Douglas Todd: Chinese students’ river of cash unlikely to dry up