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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Immigrants have long hungered to own property 

Punwasi provocatively writes about a “snow job:”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gary Mason’s short take on immigration and housing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: https://thehub.ca/2021-07-23/howard-anglin-the-one-factor-in-the-housing-bubble-that-our-leaders-wont-talk-about/

Online immigrant-sponsor application claimed ‘profoundly discriminatory’ after it opened and shut within 10 minutes

One could argue that the online system was designed to select those more likely to integrate easily, given computer skills and official language knowledge (or engaging a good lawyer or consultant).

The over-subscription suggests that the 10 year multiple entry visa approach is not viewed by many as an adequate substitute.

See Howard Anglin’s good tweet thread on the ongoing challenges to the parents and grandparents program :

A new first-come-first-served online application for immigrants seeking to sponsor their parents and grandparents to come to Canada is being condemned as “profoundly discriminatory” after the program opened and closed in less than 10 minutes on Monday.

All 27,000 openings for the family-reunification program in 2019 were spoken for within minutes of the application form’s going live online Monday, sparking outcry from disappointed would-be applicants.

Matthew Genest, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, says an initial analysis shows no technical problems with the system.

He says anti-bot features were also used to ensure all applications were legitimate and not from automated computer programs grabbing spots faster than humans could.

Genest says with over 100,000 people competing for 27,000 spots, there was simply more demand than there were spaces.

But immigration lawyer Clifford McCarten is among many now raising concern about the fairness of access to the program, as only those with reliable Internet access, quick typing skills and good understanding of English or French would have had any hope of success.

John Ivison: Unilateral regulatory changes could be answer to Canada’s border problems

Interesting series of suggestions from former immigration officials and Conservative staffers, some more well thought out than others (Ivison and I spoke briefly regarding this option).

But fundamentally, I am unconvinced that unilateral approaches, without US cooperation or at least acquiescence, will work. Will the US accept back those refused asylum seekers? And if not, then what.

Not to mention the likely legal challenges that will emerge. After all, the government lost one Federal Court decision regarding appeals to negative refugee rulings and unclear whether an appeal would have changed that decision:

In his State of the Union address in 1995, Bill Clinton said the U.S. is a nation of immigrants but also a nation of laws. It is wrong and self-defeating to permit abuse of those laws at the border, he said.

In his recent interview with the National Post, Justin Trudeau sounded more concerned with rationalizing the surge of migrants on Canada’s southern border than regaining control of the flow of asylum-seekers crossing from the U.S.

He offered no new ideas on how to stop those entering Canada illegally between official ports of entry and suggested the new arrivals will be an economic boon for the country.

“The fact that we have extremely low unemployment, we’re seeing labour shortages in certain parts of the country, (means) it is a good time to reflect that we are bringing in immigrants who are going to keep our economy growing,” he said.

The government has paid lip-service to modernizing the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S. that states migrants claiming refugee status must make their claim in the first “safe” country they arrive in – Canada or U.S.

A loophole in the pact with the Americans means it does not apply between official points of entry.

But there has been no progress in actually closing that loophole. The Trudeau government appears to have thrown up its hands in the face of American intransigence.

But Canadians’ faith in an immigration system that is legal, secure and economically-driven has been shaken. There is disbelief that the federal government can do nothing to take back control of Canada’s borders.

With good reason. There is no question that the political and legal environment has limited the government’s room for manoeuvre. But it is also true that the Liberals have not shown the will to reinforce the integrity of the refugee system. For example, once elected, the Trudeau government decided not to appeal a Federal Court decision that ruled it was unconstitutional for the government to strip asylum-seekers from countries designated as “safe” from appealing negative refugee rulings.

James Bissett was head of Canada’s immigration service and is a former Canadian ambassador. He suggested that by passing new regulations under the current Immigration Act, the government could act unilaterally and prevent applications for asylum from people residing in a “safe” country (apart from citizens of that country).

“Designating the U.S.A. a ‘safe’ country and passing an order-in-council accordingly would stop the flow across the border. I don’t see this as a violation of the Safe Third Country agreement, but if it is, then we should unilaterally end the agreement,” he said. “But I’m afraid the government doesn’t want to stop the flow and hopes a large portion of the population will agree to keep the flow coming.”

Andrew House, a lawyer at Fasken and a former chief of staff to successive Conservative public safety ministers, called Bissett’s idea a “sound approach” but said that there is “virtually no possibility” of it being adopted by the Liberal government that dropped the legal appeal on refugees.

Howard Anglin, Jason Kenney’s former chief of staff when he was immigration minister, agreed that building on the existing designation of the U.S. as a safe third country would be legally possible but would likely face major practical problems. While the 1951 Refugee Convention ruled out asylum shopping, the U.S. is unlikely to take back claimants who don’t have legal status in the States, he said.

But Anglin said Canada could at least pass a regulation making anyone with legal status in the U.S. (either temporary or permanent) ineligible to claim asylum. It could include anyone who has been denied asylum in the U.S., after having gone through its asylum process.

“There is some risk the U.S. might consider this a unilateral expansion of the Safe Third Country agreement, and thus a violation of it, and that they could become difficult in administering it on their end, or even cancel it altogether,” he said. But, despite the likely outcry from refugee lobbyists, he said most Canadians would understand why Canada should not encourage asylum shoppers.

Andrew House was more enthusiastic about another of Bissett’s suggestions – that those who cross illegally be brought to an official port of entry and have their case examined there. House suggested that this could be done without abrogating the Safe Third Country agreement.

“There is no sensible reason why Canada would not choose to view the geography in imminent proximity to a port of entry as the port of entry.

“The language in the STCA is clear: ‘country of last presence’ means that country being either Canada or the United States, in which the refugee claimant was physically present immediately prior to making a refugee status claim at a land border point of entry.

“Consider the geography of many Canadian ports of entry – they are not right on the border, they’re often set back several hundred metres. And yet we deem the ‘country of last presence’ to be the U.S., not Canada. Why doesn’t Canada choose to interpret the STCA in such a way that a person attempting to cross 100 metres to the left of a port of entry is simply apprehended, brought to the port of entry and processed per the intended operation of the STCA – that is, turned back to the U.S.?”

If Canada is to live up to its aspiration to be a nation of laws, it’s high time it started exploring some of these regulatory changes. The lack of action smacks of a clash between the administrative will and the political won’t.

Source: John Ivison: Unilateral regulatory changes could be answer to Canada’s border problems

Sadrehashemi/Waldman: Four myths about Canada’s border crossings

While their arguments have a sound basis, I find them somewhat disingenuous.

One could, for example, designate Roxham Road as a port of entry, given that 91 percent come through there. Some would, or course, try other places to enter, and we may get into a game of “whack a mole”, but no need to patrol the entire border as in many places, geography still makes it harder.

And one could, as Howard Anglin has suggested earlier (How Canada can restore order to its immigration system – Macleans.ca), have any increase in asylum seekers count against the total number of refugees rather than merely be additive.

Whatever the option proposed, or options being considered by the government, there are no easy solutions. But however and ultimately, as Andrew Coyne has argued, viability depends on cooperation with the US (Andrew Coyne: Asylum problem will only be fixed … – The Victoria Star).

While I agree that some of the rhetoric regarding the influx if overblown, similarly downplaying the risks to public confidence in immigration is equally unhelpful:

Michelle Rempel, Conservative immigration critic, tweeted recently that the media was finally writing about “illegal border crossings” after she had been raising it for a year. The problem is that several recurring myths are shaping much of the coverage. Here are four of them:

The first myth is that Canada could designate the entire border as a port of entry. This is not a viable option. The public safety minister cannot legally designate the entire border as a “port of entry.” Under our law, a “port of entry” is a place designated open by the minister based on a number of factors, including the anticipated frequency of persons arriving at a particular location. Border officials must examine and process people seeking to enter Canada at ports of entry.

Imagine that all 8,891 kilometres of our border with the United States were a port of entry. Even if we only had one officer every 100 meters, we would still need more than 270,000 new officers to cover the border 24/7. This is not a serious policy proposal and should not be treated as one.

The second myth is that refugee claimants who are crossing into Canada at non-official border crossings are entering illegally. Canada is a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees. Under international law, a refugee claimant cannot be punished for the way they enter into a country to seek asylum. Our immigration law does not make it illegal to enter Canada using informal border crossings, as long as a person reports to border services without delay. There is no legal basis to insist, as some have, that those who cross at non-official border points should be summarily deported, or that their refugee claims should be expedited since they will be refused. Underlying these suggestions is the assumption that people who are entering are not “real refugees.” The problem is that you cannot tell whether someone is a “real refugee” simply by the way they enter your country. In fact, in 2017, 53 per cent of those who crossed irregularly from the United States were found to be refugees.

The third myth is that people who are crossing from the United States are taking the spots reserved for refugees Canada would bring from overseas, somehow displacing them from a “queue.” This is comparing apples and oranges. Canada has a quota for the number of refugees it brings from overseas, either through the private sponsorship program or the government assisted refugee program. The quota is not determined by the number of refugee claims that are made in Canada. A rise in the number of refugee claimants arriving at Canada’s border does not push out refugees that Canada would accept from overseas camps.

Fourth, the rush to extreme, unviable policy solutions is predicated on the most egregious myth: the federal government has lost control of the border. This is far from true. The vast majority of those crossing the border, 91 per cent, are coming through one place, Roxham Road in Quebec, and immediately declaring themselves to Canadian authorities. There is no pressure to go “under-ground”; instead, there is a fair process to ensure proper adjudication of refugee claims. Security checks are expedited for these claimants, ensuring those who enter in this fashion do not pose a security threat. The government has also increased the capacity of border officials and refugee adjudicators.

While some try to raise alarm about a “crisis” at the border, the number of refugee claimants in Canada has to be put into a broader perspective. It is true that the number of refugee claimants has risen over the last year, but we also saw similar numbers in 2001. And globally, the same number of refugee claimants who came to Canada over all of last year entered Bangladesh in a single day. This is not the time to ignore our global duties and hastily throw up new barriers. Rather, by treating those who have crossed from the United States fairly and with compassion, according to law, Canada will merely be complying with its obligations as a party to the UN Refugee Convention.

via Sadrehashemi: Four myths about Canada’s border crossings | Ottawa Citizen

How Canada could prepare for potential new wave of asylum seekers: Anglin and House

Former CPC staffers offer their suggestions on how to stem asylum seekers (for Anglin’s earlier piece, see How Canada can restore order to its immigration system: Anglin), essentially having the RCMP escort asylum seekers to ports of entry, where the safe-third country agreement applies and they can be returned to the US (rather than helping them with their luggage).

Canada’s reputation as a refugee-protecting country was further burnished last Wednesday, when Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced a multi-year plan that will see over 137,000 refugees and other persons deemed in need of protection settling in Canada by 2020. And, after a fraught few months, Canada is enjoying something of a respite from the illegal border crossings we saw over the summer. According to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), by the end of the summer, they were processing “only” 50 to 100 claims a day, down from 1,200 a day earlier that same season.

Whether this is a trend or a pause, only hindsight will tell. But neither the generosity of Hussen’s plan nor the current respite should make us complacent about the problem of what to do about unplanned arrivals at the Canada-U.S. border. In fact, recent media reports in Canada and the U.S. predict that the issue could flare up again in the coming months.

Currently, there are 250,000 Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Nicaraguans living in the United States without valid visas who face reviews of their Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the coming months—four times the number of Haitians who received notice earlier this year that their TPS would be lifted, prompting the mass migration north to Canada this past summer. On Nov. 6, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security decided that the Nicaraguans can be removed safely, while postponing for now a decision with respect to the Hondurans and saying nothing about the Salvadorans. Then there are the 800,000 beneficiaries of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, whose status remains in limbo.

To his credit, after first appearing to invite asylum seekers to try their luck in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau now seems to accept the problem it would pose to Canada if populations living illegally in the U.S. were to come north, rather than returning south to their home countries. Walking back his earlier message in a late-summer press conference in Montreal, he said: “Canada is an opening and welcoming society. But let me be clear: we are also a country of laws. There are rigorous immigration and customs rules that will be followed. Make no mistake.”

That’s the right message, even if it was belatedly delivered. But to be credible, it must be backed by action. Otherwise, migrant networks—including for-profit operations—will quickly notice that, despite tough talk, Canada is still an easy mark for opportunistic economic migrants. And so far, three months after Trudeau’s change of tone, there is little evidence of change on the ground.

The problem is the gap in enforcement created by the 2001 Safe Third Country Agreement. This agreement allows Canada to turn back an asylum-seeker coming from the United States who failed to make his claim first in that country, but only if he arrives at an officially designated port of entry. This gives asylum-seekers a strong incentive to simply avoid official ports of entry, crossing the border illegally along back roads and across farmers’ fields.

The government should use the RCMP more effectively to close gaps in our porous border. Just as the U.S. has Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to police its borders, in Canada, the RCMP has the mandate to patrol between ports of entry run by CBSA. Mounties serving in this capacity are tasked with ensuring Canada’s immigration laws are observed and the border is secure. You’d hardly know this, though, from the widely shared images of the RCMP politely assisting asylum-seekers with their luggage. That bellhop service isn’t required by the law, but it has become a government policy—one that should change.

Since the spike in illegal crossings this summer, several ideas have been advanced about how to protect the border. But before we reinvent the wheel, engage new resources, or chart new legal territory, there is something the government could do right now—with no new resources or laws—to defend our border: Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has the authority under Section 5 of the RCMP Act to direct the Mounties to respectfully but firmly stop migrants from illegally entering Canada.

At the border itself, the RCMP could direct migrants to the nearest Canadian port of entry via a route on the U.S. side of the border. If necessary, the RCMP, authorized as members of a joint Canada-U.S. Integrated Border Enforcement Team, could even escort them there personally. Once at a port of entry, the Safe Third Country Agreement would apply and most migrants would be returned to the U.S. to make asylum claims there.

This would be consistent with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act of 2001, in which Parliament directed that RCMP officers cannot accept a claim for refugee protection (only a CBSA officer or a designated employee of Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada can do that). That decision frees the RCMP to meaningfully protect the border between ports of entry, reestablishing control over the boundary between our two countries. In extreme cases, that could mean brief detention of the rare aggressive asylum seeker for transport to the nearest Canadian port of entry—but as incentives to run the border build, this would allow the RCMP to reestablish control over the boundary, meaning physically obstructing people will become unnecessary, and ensure that our border means something.

Canadians are generous and welcoming people, but our support for high and now increasing levels of immigration, including refugees, goes hand-in-hand with a belief that the immigration process is orderly and lawful. When Canadians feel their generosity is being abused, goodwill evaporates, as we saw in the backlash against the arrivals of the Ocean Lady and Sun Sea migrant vessels in 2009 and 2010.

If we are to maintain a political consensus in favour of current levels of legal immigration, the Prime Minister must show that his commitment to enforcing the law against illegal migration is more than a rhetorical feint. The government needs to send a clear message that we will enforce our laws and defend the sanctity of our border. And it needs to do so now, in this respite—before winter conditions again increase the danger to northbound migrants.

via How Canada could prepare for potential new wave of asylum seekers – Macleans.ca

How Canada can restore order to its immigration system: Anglin

Former deputy chief of staff to former PM Harper and chief of staff to former CIC/IRCC Minister Kenney Howard Anglin offers some suggestions to deal with the influx of irregular arrivals, rather than merely criticizing the government.

His first point, on joint border patrols, requires US agreement, as does the second point, amending the STCA to include irregular arrivals. Both are likely non-starters with the Trump administration as the border crossers are people they want to leave anyway. Anglin acknowledges that with respect to amending the STCA.

His other ideas are worthy of consideration although they will be anathema to some. If the government is confident about the US refugee determination system, as it has stated repeatedly, then accepting their determinations would be fully consistent with that confidence.

Equally controversial is his suggestion to deduct any increase in asylum seekers from the overall protected persons class (refugees) in order to maintain the overall share. But his logic is clear, even if Australia is not the best example to emulate regarding refugee (and citizenship) policy. But should, in the unlikely event the Canadian government would adapt this approach, it would retain the flexibility to change the numbers should circumstances warrant.

First, Canada should substantially increase joint border patrols with the U.S. to apprehend people attempting to cross illegally before they can. There is a precedent for this in the Shiprider program, in which the RCMP and the U.S. Coast Guard jointly patrol smuggling in the Great Lakes. This cooperation, which was formalized as part of the 2011 Beyond the Border Action Plan by then-president Barack Obama and former prime minister Stephen Harper, should be expanded to the land border at points of frequent illegal crossing. With a border as long and porous as ours, this will never be a complete solution, but even if it only slows the flow, it would give bite to Trudeau’s currently toothless request that migrants respect our laws.

Second, the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) should be tightened in two ways. Under the agreement, if an asylum-seeker presents himself at a regular port of entry on the Canada-U.S. land border, we will turn him back to make his asylum claim in the United States. But if he crosses outside a port of entry—even a few hundred yards to the side—he is permitted to make his asylum claim in Canada. To remove this incentive for law-breaking, the STCA should be extended, consistent with its underlying principles, to anyone coming directly from the United States, regardless of how or where they arrived.

We should also close the loophole allowing migrants coming from the United States to make an asylum claim in Canada if they have a family member here. The definition of “family member” in the STCA is much broader than the usual definition in Canadian immigration law, including not just parents and children but also siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. That wide net is made even wider by lax enforcement. If you turn up at the border at Windsor claiming to have an uncle in Montreal, there’s not much CBSA can do beyond making some phone calls. We rarely require strict documentary proof from both parties, let alone DNA testing, as we should (and could, without U.S. approval).

Unfortunately, the likelihood of the United States agreeing to close these loopholes is slim. Previous requests have been rebuffed, and changes that mean more people will make asylum claims in the United States rather than Canada must be about as low as you can get on the American foreign policy agenda. Still, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to ask and even to tie them to other negotiations over matters our neighbours do care about.

There are, however, two changes to the asylum system that we could make unilaterally. We could start by amending our laws to recognize American courts’ asylum decisions. Today, if an asylum seeker’s claim is rejected in the United States, he can walk across the border and make another one here. With reciprocal recognition and access to American asylum records, we could deny serial claimants a second kick at the can here. Trudeau and Hussen have recently reaffirmed their faith in the independence of the American asylum system and the idea that it satisfies Canadian standards of due process underlies the STCA. It’s time we took that idea to its logical conclusion.

The government could also copy Australia and amend the way we categorize and count refugees. Currently, the government sets annual immigration targets each year by category, which it submits to Parliament each autumn. In 2017, for example, as part of an overall total of 300,000 new immigrants, the government set a target of 25,000 for refugee resettlement and 15,000 for successful inland asylum claimants and their dependents. Unlike other immigration categories, which are within the government’s control, this last one is always an estimate. If many more asylum-seekers arrive in Canada, then we have no choice but to process them and to accept all successful claimants, even if they are over and above the stated target.

If we were to combine the two categories into a single class of humanitarian immigrants, then we could adjust the number of resettled refugees we admit each year to compensate for any inaccuracies in our estimate for the category of inland claimants. Using this year’s combined total of 40,000, if we end up accepting 20,000 asylum claims instead of the 15,000 the government predicted, we would reduce the number of overseas refugees we resettle from 25,000 to 20,000, keeping us within the overall target. If it’s not possible to be that nimble in adjusting resettlement numbers on an annual basis, then the total could be spread over two years, with next year’s number reduced instead (or increased in a year when we receive fewer successful inland asylum claims than predicted). A combined annual cap on all refugee immigration wouldn’t directly address the current flood of migrants, but it would be an important step towards regaining control over total immigration to Canada.

The government may have been slow to react to the migrant problem, but it isn’t too late for Trudeau and Hussen to restore order and reassure Canadians that our immigration system is as law-bound as they claim on Twitter. It will, however, take action as well as words. Decisive action, of the kind described above—backed up with tough words, of the kind Trudeau usually prefers to avoid.

Source: How Canada can restore order to its immigration system – Macleans.ca