Hyder: Canada needs to get its stalled immigration system back on track

The Canadian big business perspective, arguing that Canada should go back to the previous immigration targets given a larger population means more consumers and hence business revenues.

However, it focusses on GDP, not per capita GDP, it ignores the fact that previous recessions have hit hardest on recently arrived immigrants and have long-term impact on their earnings.

Moreover, an almost cult-like fixation on previously announced target without any serious reexamination of whether they remain appropriate is  incredibly short-sighted. The only interesting point is the the reference to Anna Triandafyllidou’s innovation proposal for virtual immigration (for knowledge industries), the rest is simply repeating previous arguments:

The effects of COVID-19 on Canada’s economy can be measured in many ways. Some are obvious: millions unable to work, thousands of firms forced to close their doors, more than $250-billion in emergency government spending.

Less obvious, but of potentially greater significance to Canada’s long-term economic health, is the impact of the pandemic on immigration.

Canada’s ability to attract newcomers to its shores has long been one of this country’s greatest strengths and competitive advantages. Immigration enriches the social fabric of the nation while boosting the economy, helping to offset a low birth rate and an aging population.

Immigrants bring energy, skills, new ideas and entrepreneurial spirit. They start companies, fill skill shortages, buy houses and pay taxes.

It’s no exaggeration to say – as Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, declared in a speech to the Canadian Club of Toronto last Feb. 28 – that the future of Canada “hinges on immigration.”

The minister couldn’t have foreseen it at the time, but less than a month later Canada responded to the global pandemic by temporarily closing its borders to all non-essential foreign travellers.

Overnight, the country’s intake of immigrants – which had been expected to hit 341,000 this year – slowed to a trickle.

In April, Canada welcomed just 4,140 new permanent residents, 85 per cent fewer than in the same month in 2019. Since then, the pace of admissions has gradually picked up, reaching 11,000 in May and 19,200 in June.

Still, at the current rate we can expect to see 170,000 fewer permanent residents entering the country in 2020 than planned, according to a recent report by RBC Economics.

The collapse in immigration means Canada’s population is currently experiencing its slowest growth since 2015. That will have important implications across many sectors, including residential construction, industries with labour shortages, and Canada’s postsecondary education system.

Canada currently ranks third in the world as a destination for international students. In 2019, 642,000 foreign students injected more than $22-billion into the economy, supporting 170,000 jobs.

The good news is that, despite the new coronavirus, Canadian officials are continuing to process new applications for permanent and temporary residence, albeit at a reduced rate due to physical distancing and other pandemic-related restrictions.

In addition, Mr. Mendicino has removed at least some of the obstacles standing in the way of would-be immigrants. Recently he introduced a special “one-time” pathway to permanent residency for refugee claimants who are working in front-line health and long-term care jobs.

He also announced that visitors to Canada who have a valid job offer will be able to apply for a work permit without the normal requirement to leave the country. The temporary policy is aimed at helping employers who continue to face challenges recruiting and hiring international workers during the pandemic.

Such measures are welcome, even though they won’t make a big difference to Canada’s immigration numbers.

There’s no getting around the fact that the longer the COVID-19 pandemic persists, the more difficult it will be for the country to meet its goal of more than one million new permanent residents between 2020 and 2022.

What can be done to close the gap? Anna Triandafyllidou, the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration at Ryerson University, has proposed a workaround for highly skilled people who have a job offer in Canada but are unable to get here because of travel restrictions. Under the rules, they can’t obtain a work permit or a social insurance number until they enter the country, which means they can’t be paid.

The solution, Ms. Triandafyllidou says, is technology. Her idea is to issue digital work permits and temporary SINs that would allow these “virtual immigrants” to start working remotely for their Canadian employers while they wait for the health emergency to abate.

Beyond that, immigration must be a pillar of Canada’s postpandemic economic recovery plan. In November, the federal government is expected to table its next multiyear immigration plan. It should move to make up lost ground by raising the targets for 2022 and beyond. The incremental growth should emphasize economic-class newcomers – those admitted through Express Entry programs, the Provincial Nominee Program, Quebec’s programs, and other federal streams such as the Atlantic Immigration Pilot.

The demographic factors that drive Canada’s need for immigrants have not changed due to COVID-19. Neither, it seems, has public support for immigration. In a Leger poll this summer, respondents agreed by a three-to-one margin that newcomers will help rather than hurt Canada’s long-term economic recovery. The sooner Canada’s immigration system gets back on track, the better.

Goldy Hyder is the president & chief executive officer of Business Council of Canada.

Source: Canada needs to get its stalled immigration system back on track

Don’t make election about immigration, corporate Canada tells political leaders

Not surprising. Focus on the economic case (and economic class of immigrants) is where support for immigration is strongest:

Big business leaders worried about Canada’s aging demographics have been urging political parties to avoid inflaming the immigration debate ahead of this fall’s federal election.

The head of the lobby group representing chief executives of Canada’s largest corporations said he’s already raised the issue with political leaders who are shifting into campaign mode for the October vote.

With signs of public concern about immigration, Business Council of Canada president and CEO Goldy Hyder said he’s promoted the economic case in favour of opening the country’s doors to more people.

“We are 10 years away from a true demographic pressure point,” Hyder said during a meeting with reporters Thursday in Ottawa. “What I’ve said to the leaders of the political parties on this issue is, ‘Please, please do all you can to resist making this election about immigration.’ That’s as bluntly as I can say it to them.”

The message from corporate Canada comes at a time when public and political debate has focused on immigration, refugees and border security, to the point it could emerge as a key election issue, tempting parties fighting hard for votes.

A poll released this month by Ekos Research Associates suggested that the share of people who think there are too many visible minorities in Canada is up “significantly,” even though overall opposition to immigration has been largely unchanged in recent years and remains lower than it was in the 1990s.

Canada has been ratcheting up its immigration numbers and it plans to welcome more. The Immigration Department set targets of bringing in nearly 331,000 newcomers this year, 341,000 in 2020 and 350,000 in 2021, according to its 2018 report to Parliament.

As the baby-boomer generation ages, experts say Canada — like other western countries — will need a steady influx of workers to fill jobs and to fund social programs, like public health care, through taxes.

Thanks to the stronger economy, Canadian companies have already been dealing with labour shortages. Healthy employment growth has tightened job markets, making it more difficult for firms to find workers.

“Every job that sits empty is a person not paying taxes … We have job shortages across the country and they’re just not at the high end,” said Hyder, who added his members are well aware that immigration has become a tricky political issue.

“We’re worried about that in the sense that the public can very easily go to a xenophobic place.”

Hyder also brought up Quebec Premier Francois Legault’s election promise last year to cut annual immigration levels in his province by 20 per cent. Legault won the election after making the vow, even though Quebec faces significant demographic challenges.

Earlier this week, the Bank of Canada noted the economic importance of immigration in its monetary policy report. Carolyn Wilkins, the central bank’s senior deputy governor, said without immigration, Canada’s labour force would cease adding workers within five years.

“The fact we’ve got people that are buying things, that are using services, that are going to stores, that need houses — well, that creates a little bit of a boost to the economy,” Wilkins told a news conference in Ottawa when asked about the subject. “Certainly, immigration is a big part of the story in terms of potential growth, which will feed itself into actual growth.”

Hyder said he’s personally part of a group called the Century Initiative, which would like to see Canada, a country of about 37 million, grow to 100 million people by 2100.

The group was co-founded by Hyder and several others, including two members of the Trudeau government’s influential economic advisory council — Dominic Barton, global managing director of consulting firm McKinsey & Co., and Mark Wiseman, a senior managing director for investment management giant BlackRock Inc. Hyder was a business consultant before joining the business council and was once a top aide to federal Progressive Conservative leader Joe Clark.

The Century Initiative wants Canada to responsibly expand its population as a way to help drive its economic potential.

“Demographics are not going to be relying on just making babies, we’re going to need immigration,” Hyder said. “We have to be able to communicate that from an economic perspective, but cognizant of the social concerns that people have.”

Source: Don’t make election about immigration, corporate Canada tells political leaders

HYDER: No crisis with newcomers arriving in Canada

Good commentary by Goldy Hyder of Hill+Knowlton Strategies and board member of the Century Initiative.

Perhaps more important is that this appeared in the Toronto Sun to provide a different perspective than their usual contributors (just as the Star and Globe could benefit from a broader range of views):

Over 25 years ago, I wrote my master’s thesis on how the crisis label applied to public policy is both an opportunity for governments and a problem for its citizens.

The example I used to make the point was the “refugee crisis” generated by the dramatic boat arrival of 174 Sikhs off the coast of Nova Scotia in August 1986. This was preceded in equally dramatic fashion by 155 Tamils also arriving on a boat a year earlier.

In the first case, the government of the day responded with openness, generosity and willingness to embrace those who claimed to be fleeing persecution.

The public response was less generous, particularly upon learning that the boat and its occupants were in fact arriving not from India (hardly a refugee producing country) but in fact a safe country (Germany) that could have and should have applied its own refugee laws to determine legitimacy of the claims.

An RCMP officer standing in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que., advises migrants that they are about to illegally cross from Champlain, N.Y., and will be arrested, Monday, Aug. 7, 2017.

When fate afforded the government a do-over upon the next boat arrival, the response by the same government — clearly feeling both duped by the circuitous manner in which the first boat arrived, and with the full knowledge of public sentiments on such arrivals — was to label the issue as a “refugee crisis.”

This dominated headlines, debate in Parliament and the public’s attention. It allowed a government under pressure on other issues to leverage the advantages that a “crisis” label affords any government: Namely the public’s demand and expectation that the government will — as a matter of priority — focus on and put an end to the “crisis.”

In 2018, history is repeating itself.

It was no more a crisis in the aforementioned incidents than there is one today from a purely statistical perspective. But that didn’t matter then and it doesn’t matter now.

There are many reasons we stand to be worse off if the debate heads in the direction it currently is driven by emotion, stoked by political agendas on both sides.

Canadians, I believe, are smarter than that. But, they must be heard.

We know our history. Unless Indigenous, we are all immigrants. What we cherish as a value is fairness and rule of law. We do not like our generosity and compassion to be abused.

While much attention goes to how the so called “alt-right” or those labelled racists, the fact is that masks what is taking place much more broadly in society albeit less overtly.

In the modern era, these debates cannot be suppressed, nor do they function uncomfortably underground. Rather, they play out in the open and that, frankly, is an opportunity.

Migration in all its forms has long been used as an issue to debate because it is deeply personal and goes to who we are as a people and as a nation. We need to be reminded from time to time about the role immigrants, refugees and migrants (not all the same thing) have played in making Canada what it is today.

We know study after study has proven time and again that immigrants put more into the system than they take out of it. Yet, people here in Canada, and in many other countries, are reaching a point of saying either “no more” or “not so many.” Whether there is a crisis or not (there isn’t), this is an opportunity to hear the voices of Canadians, left and right and those in between to understand what is driving their emotions.

If there is one thing I have learned about we Canadians, it is this: Given the right information, provided an opportunity to speak and be heard, there is a collective wisdom in the Canadian public consciousness that usually gets the answer right in the end.

Source: HYDER: No crisis with newcomers arriving in Canada

We can’t let Canada’s politicians divide us with populist labels: Goldy Hyder

While I agree with Hyder on the risk of playing to divisions, ignoring class and other differences also entails risk of denial and addressing issues.

Generally those who decry ‘class warfare’ do so from a position of privilege. What is needed, hard to do so in politics, is more nuanced debate about difference, barriers, and ways to overcome them:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to cancel his plans to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos so he can undertake a cross-country tour and engage directly with Canadians is a symptom of a much larger and more troubling trend where it has become increasingly fashionable for political leaders to frame public-policy decisions in terms of their potential impact on “ordinary,” “real” or “average” Canadians.

These terms, which are now at the heart of debates about everything from health-care funding to the benefits of globalization, have come to be used almost interchangeably with the equally popular “middle class.” To the extent that many Canadians consider themselves, rightly or wrongly, to be part of the middle class, these labels are intended to convey a sense of inclusiveness.

Yet the opposite is true. As we have seen in the United States and Britain, when these types of generic terms are used to describe large groups, they are generally defined on the basis of who they exclude: the so-called elites.

These terms are, in fact, inherently divisive. Just as few of us would self-identify as being “abnormal,” our characteristic Canadian modesty prevents us from thinking we are particularly exceptional. If we are not among those frequently maligned “elites,” we must therefore, be part of some “middle-class” majority. (Even the math holds up, as we’re told “elites” are only the top 1 per cent.)

The problem with vague terms like these is that they invite people to fill in the blanks with their own biases about who fits into each group – and we’ve seen the consequences that has had in other countries. Canadians should not be urged to divide themselves on the basis of income, education, ethnicity, religion or region. To do so would be to unravel our rich multicultural tapestry by pulling on loose threads.

We don’t want Canadians to be inherently distrustful of experts, to presume that a person is less ethical because they have a higher or lower net worth, or to believe that those with global outlooks aren’t patriotic. Any proliferation of populist labels risks creating an “us versus them” conflict within the country, something that can be exploited by those looking for an easy way to galvanize and mobilize a political base.

Some may suggest I am being alarmist, but I have spent the better part of my career in the field of communications, and in my professional experience our choice of language matters a great deal. It has also been my personal experience. As an immigrant and a Muslim, I have witnessed firsthand how quickly the word “different” becomes “foreign,” and how easily “foreign” can become “un-Canadian.”

At a certain point, assigning some meaning to arbitrary or artificial terms inevitably becomes a question of defining values. That is where things get complicated and where the real fissures can emerge. Canada’s 150-year story has many chapters in which divisions between people defined the politics of an era. Some of our worst mistakes have been made by governments in attempts to satisfy one group over another.

Without question, governments must consider the very different realities in which Canadians live when they develop policy res-ponses to pressing issues – but that is about technical implementation. What governments must avoid doing is using the levers of policy to divide Canadians on the basis of their different circumstances, as opposed to building a broad consensus based on shared values and interests.

Moreover, governments must avoid making decisions – such as whether to attend a global conference with the world’s most powerful economic stakeholders – based solely on the perceived optics of those decisions.

In these uncertain times, we cannot afford to make mistakes or miss opportunities. We need to seize every advantage we have, and that means ignoring those who call for us to marginalize or vilify others. Instead of targeting a particular class of Canadian – whether upper, lower or middle – let’s avoid entirely the temptation to engage in any type of class distinctions or, worse still, to inflame class warfare.

When the Fathers of Confederation created our country 150 years ago, they sought to unite us in common cause. Let us invoke that same spirit in this anniversary year by uniting Canadians, not dividing them.

Source: We can’t let Canada’s politicians divide us with populist labels – The Globe and Mail