Ibbitson: No one considers Canada’s immigration record to be a big deal, and that’s remarkable

Correct, even if more discussion about the advisability of such an expansionist approach is needed.

But is is striking that the latest Focus Canada survey by the Environics Institute shows remarkable stability in Canadian generally positive attitudes regarding immigration despite a difficult pandemic year:

With a little more than two months to go, Canada is comfortably on track to meet its goal of welcoming 401,000 new permanent residents this year, despite closed borders and other pandemic restrictions.

That Canada is on the cusp of achieving such a goal in such times is remarkable. Even more remarkable is that no one seems to consider this a big deal.

“We’re in the home stretch,” Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino told me. “Our goal of landing 401,000 new permanent residents in 2021 is well within sight.”

And the Liberal government remains committed to setting immigration records every year, with 411,000 new arrivals slated for 2022 and 421,000 in 2023. Canada is now taking in well in excess of 1 per cent of its population of 38.5 million annually.

The Immigration department has been meeting these targets by converting temporary workers, graduated international students and asylum claimants already in Canada to permanent residents. Those measures, however, are winding down. Visa offices are open once again around the world and fully vaccinated travellers are allowed to enter Canada.

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed hard truths. One is that some of Canada’s most essential workers aren’t in high tech or trades; they’re supermarket workers and truck drivers and others who keep the wheels turning. Immigration policy must recognize their importance.

Another is that immigration will account even more for labour-force growth after the pandemic than it has in the past. Canada’s total fertility rate in 2016 was 1.6, short of the 2.1 children per woman needed to keep a population stable. Today it’s down to 1.4.

Don Kerr, a specialist of demography at King’s College at the University of Western Ontario, shared with me data on fertility rates by census metropolitan area, based on Statistics Canada’s 2020 birth data. Many major cities have fertility rates below the national average.

Vancouver’s fertility is 1.09, comparable to the ultra-low fertility rates of Pacific countries such as Japan and South Korea, while Victoria has fallen to a remarkable low of 0.95. Edmonton (1.41), Calgary (1.33) and Montreal (1.41) are at or close to the national average, but Toronto is only at 1.21, and Halifax is at 1.1.

“Canadian women are delaying their first birth further and further, having fewer children and opting for childlessness to a greater extent than ever before,” Prof. Kerr observed. Thirty-two out of 33 census metropolitan areas saw a decline in fertility over the past decade, even prior to the pandemic.

“Canada’s natural increase is at an unprecedented low,” said Prof. Kerr. “If the smaller cohorts to follow the millennials continue with this very low fertility, we can expect even fewer births.”

If so, then immigration is the only route to filling labour shortages and sustaining the economy. The good news is that new polling data provided to The Globe and Mail by the Environics Institute and Century Initiative show that attitudes toward immigration remain positive and stable.

Sixty-five per cent of those polled disagreed with the statement: “Immigration levels are too high.” Only 29 per cent agreed. Flipped around, 57 per cent agreed that “Canada needs more immigrants to increase its population” (37 per cent disagreed) and 80 per cent agreed/16 per cent disagreed that “the economic impact of immigration is positive.”

(The survey was based on landline and cellphone interviews with 2,000 Canadians from Sept. 7-23, and has a posted margin of error of 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.)

In the recent federal election, every major national party supported an open immigration policy. Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party, which would ratchet the numbers down, received 5 per cent of the vote, but even that modest level of support was probably based mainly on the party’s opposition to vaccine mandates.

Far from opposing immigration, provinces such as Ontario are asking Ottawa to increase the numbers they can bring in under the provincial nominee program.

Mr. Mendicino may or may not remain as Immigration Minister after a new cabinet is sworn in Oct. 26. His and other departments struggled to extricate Canadians and those who had served Canada when the Taliban swept to power in Afghanistan in August.

But overall the country’s immigration performance on this minister’s watch has been impressive. And Canadians should congratulate themselves on remaining an open and welcoming society, even as so many others have closed their doors.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-no-one-considers-canadas-immigration-record-to-be-a-big-deal-and-thats/

Adams and Parkin: Having an election that changes nothing is not such a bad outcome after all; Ibbitson: A divided country? Actually, the federal election revealed Canada has never been more united in purpose

Contrary narrative, two versions:

What, if anything, has changed?

Immediate media reaction to the federal election result is divided. Those who count the seats won and lost see the status quo. Those concerned with the tone and tenor of our politics fear the election has left the country more divided than ever. Is it possible that the election changed nothing and everything at the same time?

We can hardly be shocked that there are strong differences of opinion among Canadians—we wouldn’t need elections if there weren’t. Can we address climate change and increase oil and gas exports at the same time? Should we make child care more affordable by giving money to care providers or to consumers? Will subsidizing the cost of a mortgage make housing more or less affordable? Arguing over issues like these is not a threat to democracy; it is the point of democracy.

Canadians are divided, then, in the sense that we take different sides in these debates. But in another sense, we are not nearly as divided as many assume. Differences in opinion are scattered throughout the population, and do not separate us dramatically by region, or age, or gender, or race. There are oil-enthusiasts in Quebec and radical ecologists in Alberta. There are men who want $10-a-day national day care and women who would prefer to pocket a tax credit. There are new Canadians who trust the police and “old stock” Canadians who do not. We are not a country that is fracturing into increasingly hostile groups defined by geography or identity.

And only those with short historical memories can claim that our political divisions are greater than ever. Elections in the 1970s and 1980s featured heated exchanges over which party was going to save the country and which was going to put an end to it—whether by handing it over to the separatists or to the Americans. The National Energy Program was hardly less divisive than the carbon tax; Bill 101 was no less controversial than Bill 21. Canadians did not exactly rally together to embrace the introduction of the GST. Keith Spicer told us in June 1991 that the nation was riven by rage.

But all this is besides the point, if the real problem is the emergence of the People’s Party, and the associated rabble-rousers who yelled obscenities and threw rocks at the prime minister, surely this is an indication of a society that is increasingly polarized?

Here, we need to be precise about the meaning of the words we use. Politics becomes polarized when more people move to opposing extremes, with far fewer remaining in the middle. This is what we see happening between Republicans and Democrats in the U.S., or between Leavers and Remainers in the U.K. There is no evidence that this is happening in Canada. Most Canadians remain firmly in the political centre, embracing the politics of pragmatic compromise and incremental progress.

Some Canadians do hold extreme views, but the proportion who do so is not on the rise. Yes, it is sobering to consider that one in 10 Canadians agree that, under some circumstances, an authoritarian government may be preferable to a democratic one. But this proportion has hardly changed over the past decade—if anything, it is slightly lower in 2021 than it was in 2010. Meanwhile, the number of Canadians comfortable with the country’s diversity, and uncomfortable with racism and discrimination, is higher than ever.

While Canadians, as a whole, are not becoming more extremist, the extremists among us might be becoming more organized, and more empowered by social media. They may also be targets for further radicalization by those with the most sinister of political aims. This, and not widespread division or polarization, is the concern. The threat to our democracy does not come from the heated, even acrimonious debates between left and right, or East and West. But it may come from the small, but vocal minority that seeks to undermine the norms of democracy.

This threat should not be dismissed, but rather addressed swiftly by those knowledgeable in how to counter those seeking to infiltrate and radicalize. But this does not need to be accompanied by a generalized lament for the soul of a nation. The election may have been unnecessary; it may have been tedious and uninspired; it may have changed little as far as the composition of the House of Commons is concerned. But it did not leave us more polarized or divided than ever before. In that sense, having an election that changes nothing is not such a bad outcome after all.

Source: https://www.hilltimes.com/2021/09/23/having-an-election-that-changes-nothing-is-not-such-a-bad-outcome-after-all/318706?utm_source=Subscriber+-++Hill+Times+Publishing&utm_campaign=da8d94bfbb-Todays-Headlines-Subscribers&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8edecd9364-da8d94bfbb-90755301&mc_cid=da8d94bfbb&mc_eid=685e94e554

And in a similar vein, John Ibbitson:

Many believe that Monday’s election exposed deep divisions within Canada. Ontario Premier Doug Ford called it “difficult and divisive.”

This is not so. The election revealed that Canada has rarely had fewer divides either between regions or political parties.

There are discontents, yes, and warning signs that should not be ignored. But although this election left many frustrated and annoyed at the status quo anteresult, the level of consensus on national priorities is really quite remarkable.

Consider relations between Canada and Quebec, which have been fraught since before Confederation. The English-language debate confirmed that no national party is willing to challenge the government of Quebec in its relentless push for autonomy.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh all chastised a moderator who asked Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet how he could possibly defend “discriminatory laws” that restrict the outward display of religious symbols and entrench French as the province’s sole official language.

In fact, no national political party is prepared to challenge legislation that most Quebeckers consider necessary to protect their distinct language and culture, but which would be considered by many to be discriminatory elsewhere.

The Conservatives, had they been elected, would have agreed to give Quebec greater control over immigration in the province. Sooner or later, Quebec will get that power. The social contract between French and English Canada appears to be sealed: The province can go its own way, so long as separation is off the table.

Ardent federalists of past generations, especially Pierre Trudeau, would have fought such devolution. But “Justin Trudeau is not his father,” Daniel Béland, a political scientist at McGill University, said in an interview.

This generation of federalists is inclined to respect the near universal will of Quebeckers for something approaching self-government. “We are still part of Canada,” Prof. Béland explained. “But we have growing policy autonomy to do our thing.”

At least one Western premier believes the election was a divisive waste of time. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe called Monday’s vote “the most pointless election in Canadian history.”

“The Prime Minister spent $600-million of taxpayers’ dollars and five weeks further dividing the country to arrive at almost the same result as where we started.”

But Mr. Moe’s government recently signed on to the Liberal $10-a-day child-care plan. Alberta and Ontario are expected to likely join as well, at which point Canada will have enacted a major new national social program.

Though Conservatives continue to dominate in the West, the Maverick Party, which hoped to generate a wave of populist protest in the same way Reform did in the 1980s and 90s, made little impression. Western alienation played less of a role in this campaign than in the election of 2019.

On policy, the political parties in this election were more aligned than at any time in recent memory. The Conservatives offered a more progressive agenda; the Liberals were already seriously progressive, and the NDP was the NDP.

How aligned were they? Had Mr. O’Toole won government, he would have scrapped the Liberal child-care program, replacing it with one of his own. He would have scrapped the carbon tax, replacing it with one of his own. He would also have increased funding for health care, with a particular emphasis on mental health, introduced portable pensions for gig workers and banned puppy mills.

Any Liberal government could – and probably will – adopt a large chunk of the Conservative platform.

Yes, the People’s’ Party of Canada increased its share of the popular vote, to 5 per cent. In many countries that use proportional representation, that would entitle Maxime Bernier and other candidates to sit in the House of Commons. And though their views on vaccination, immigration and global warming are anathema to most, including this writer, they deserve a voice. Nonetheless, they remain a fringe within the Canadian political spectrum, one that needs to be confronted with logic, facts and an appeal to common sense.

This country has never been more united in purpose. Federal and provincial governments acted in unison to fight the pandemic, protect workers and businesses and procure and deliver vaccines. Almost every province has or will soon have some form of vaccine passport that residents must show to enter many businesses or entertainment venues. A large majority of Canadians support these passports and other mandates, such as employers requiring workers to be vaccinated before returning to the workplace.

On immigration, Canada is on track to accept more permanent residents this year than at any time in its history, despite travel restrictions. The population becomes more diverse every year. Yet no major national party is calling for cuts to immigration levels.

The Conservatives went from opposing to supporting a price on carbon because polls show most Canadians consider global warming a major issue and want Canada to lower emissions.

While the Supreme Court in the United States appears to be headed toward striking down Roe v. Wade, which protects a woman’s right to have an abortion, every major federal party leader in Canada declared they were pro-choice in this election, which reflects the views of a large majority of Canadians.

When the Conservatives mooted the possibility of removing restrictions on some semi-automatic weapons, on the grounds that the rules were capricious and contradictory, the backlash was so swift that Mr. O’Toole reversed himself within days.

The Conservatives also took heat for proposing greater involvement by the private sector in the delivery of publicly funded health care. Lost in the noise is the truth that every major political party supports medicare, and has now for decades.

Deficits used to be a divisive issue, but they have become less so. Jean Chrétien’s Liberals accepted in the 1990s the conservative arguments that Ottawa had to balance its books. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, with Liberal support, incurred deficits to fight the 2008-09 financial emergency. Deficits were an issue in the 2019 campaign, but this time out the only distinction was that the Liberals have no plan to return to balance, while the Conservatives proposed returning to balance in a decade.

Unfortunately, while both governing parties continue to promise reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples, neither has succeeded in achieving it, though both are gradually moving toward an implicit recognition of an Indigenous right to a deciding say over major resources projects on lands they claim.

There are differences, of course. Conservatives seek a more confrontational approach toward China. Conservatives are more likely to favour the private sector, though Mr. O’Toole sounded like an editorialist for the Daily Worker when he declared, “too much power is in the hands of corporate and financial elites who have been only too happy to outsource jobs abroad.”

Some within the Conservative Party believe Mr. O’Toole went too far left on some social and environmental issues. But he only went as far as any party must go to line up with public opinion. Once the pandemic ends, Grits and Tories may disagree more sharply on taxation and spending. But that’s down the road.

The United States has become so polarized it threatens to tear itself apart. Parties of the far right have become increasingly powerful in Europe. Canada is nothing like that, as the election proved. Our politicians howl over picayune differences. Elections are fought over the best way to deliver a new government program, rather than on whether such programs should exist. The consensus on everything that matters is deep and profound.

It’s been a very long time since we were this united, if ever.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-a-divided-country-actually-the-federal-election-revealed-canada-has/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=Morning%20Update&utm_content=2021-9-24_7&utm_term=Morning%20Update:%20‘Nobody%20knows%20what%20to%20do’:%20Haitian%20migrants%20running%20out%20of%20options%20along%20U.S.-Mexico%20border%20&utm_campaign=newsletter&cu_id=%2BTx9qGuxCF9REU6kNldjGJtpVUGIVB3Y

Ibbitson: The People’s Party is far outside the mainstream of Canadian politics, but it deserves representation and Mason: Maxime Bernier’s disgraceful election campaign

Two very different takes on Bernier and his campaign, Ibbitson arguing that PPC political representation in Parliament is preferable to no representation, as better that they feel being shut-out:

Word has it that Chelsea Hillier’s campaign is gaining traction. If the votes split the right way, the People’s Party of Canada candidate for Elgin-Middlesex-London could win the Southwestern Ontario riding on Sept. 20. Here’s hoping she does.

To preserve a healthy democracy, Ms. Hillier – who is the daughter of rogue Ontario MPP Randy Hillier – along with party leader Maxime Bernier and a number of other PPC candidates should be elected to the House of Commons.

The People’s Party is far outside the mainstream of Canadian politics. Some of its more ardent supporters fuelled the protests that dogged Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s campaign. (Ms. Hillier’s former riding president, Shane Marshall, was dismissed and has been charged by police after he allegedly threw gravel at Mr. Trudeau.) Mr. Bernier’s rhetoric – “When tyranny becomes law, revolution becomes our duty” – can be incendiary.

It is reasonable to suspect that many, if not most, of the demonstrators harassing health care workers and patients outside hospitals will be casting a ballot for the PPC.

Nonetheless, the People’s Party of Canada is a legitimate political party that deserves representation. It reflects the views of almost two million voters. Suppressing the voices of those voters will only worsen their estrangement from the mainstream.

The PPC platform is straightforward: It would cut back on immigration by as much as 75 per cent and eliminate multiculturalism as a policy. Newcomers would be interviewed to ensure they embrace “Canadian values and societal norms,” which are “those of a contemporary Western civilization.”

Canada under a PPC government would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change while lowering the bar for oil-and-gas pipeline approvals. It would direct the Bank of Canada to lower its inflation target from 2 per cent to 0 per cent; balance the budget in its first mandate; cut back on equalization payments; let provinces run their health care systems as they see fit; lift many gun restrictions; and oppose “vaccine mandates, vaccine passports, and other authoritarian measures.”

Not my cup of tea – and then some. But similar policies have been implemented at one time or another in the United States and some European countries. In other countries, populist right-wing parties are prominently represented in legislatures.

As Erin O’Toole has moved the Conservative Party toward the centre, some voters on the party’s right appear to have abandoned it for the PPC, which has the support of about 7 per cent of eligible voters, according to Tuesday’s Nanos tracking poll for The Globe and Mail and CTV News. That’s more than four times the 1.6 per cent the party polled in the last election and more support than the Bloc Québécois or Green Party command.

In a House of Commons that fairly represented the will of the electorate, there would be about two dozen PPC MPs if that level of support were translated into votes on election day. But due to the vagaries of the first-past-the-post voting system, the party could be shut out, which would further alienate right-wing voters who have already lost faith in their political institutions.

There could be plenty of reasons why so many people are drawn to the People’s Party. They have become resentful and untrusting over the loss of manufacturing jobs. They are stressed by the pandemic. Some of them resent the increasing number of non-European immigrants. This is racist, but it is how they feel. And they enjoy the self-empowerment that comes from rejecting authority.

While most of us agree that making vaccination mandatory for workplaces, public transportation and other shared spaces is essential to protect the vulnerable and defeat the pandemic, others see such restrictions as attacks on their personal freedom. And many of them distrust the scientific consensus around vaccines, just as they do when it comes to climate change.

Mr. Bernier seeks to be their voice. If their voice is silenced – if PPC members fail to break through in Parliament, just as Mr. Bernier was unfairly denied representation in the leaders’ debates last week – they will find another way to be heard.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-the-peoples-party-is-far-outside-the-mainstream-of-canadian-politics/

Gary Mason, on the other hand, focuses on just how much Bernier has changed for the worse and the reactionary politics he preaches:

Election campaigns are bruising, generally thankless affairs, in which the mood of the candidates is inextricably linked to the proximity of the finish line.

That is, unless you have nothing to lose, then you can often enjoy the experience and get more exposure than you ever imagined – or frankly, deserved.

Welcome to Mad Max Bernier’s world.

Mr. Bernier leads the People’s Party of Canada. This is his second federal campaign as front man of a political entity he founded in the wake of a failed bid for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada in 2017. (He lost by a hair to Andrew Scheer.) But this time around he’s attracting far more attention than he did in the 2019 election.

The pandemic has not been good for much, except, perhaps, Mr. Bernier’s political fortunes. It’s not the kind of bump with which most people would be happy to be associated, but then, beggars can’t be choosers. Many of the deplorable anti-vaxxers who have been protesting outside hospitals and angrily confronting Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau on the campaign trail have found a home in the PPC. (A former PPC riding president was recently charged with assault with a weapon after allegedly pelting Mr. Trudeau with gravel at a campaign event.)

They have been drawn to the party’s emphasis on freedom and liberty and its “governments-have-no-right-to-tell-us-what-do” credo. A passionate, if not flakey libertarian, Maxime Bernier is capitalizing on the intersection of a pandemic and a federal election. His party has given voice to those who believe vaccine mandates and passports are an infringement of their constitutional rights.

Prior to now, Mr. Bernier and his party have mostly been an easily ignored sideshow. His questioning of human-caused climate change and his horrible mocking of climate campaigner Greta Thunberg were enough to make most normal-thinking people tune the party out long ago. The sketchy nationalists the PPC seemed to attract were a concern, but not any threat to our security. If he wanted to hold meetings and quote Ayn Rand, fine. If he wanted to be an outlet for the country’s conspiracy theorists, okay.

But what he’s been doing on the campaign trail is not kosher. Not by any measure.

Mr. Bernier recently wrapped up a three-day tour of Alberta, where, according to polls, the PPC enjoys more support than almost anywhere else in the country. He held a few well-attended events, including at a church at Spruce Grove, just outside of Edmonton. Hundreds, virtually all without masks, crammed inside the church hall to hear Mr. Bernier ramble on about how horrible it is that governments are using the pandemic as an excuse to restrict people’s rights.

“Because we know that without freedom, there’s no human dignity, equality of rights and economic prosperity,” he told his audience. “And we know that freedom is the foundation of our Western civilization.”

He pulled out a quote he uses often: “When tyranny becomes law, revolution becomes our duty.” It’s a line familiar to many far-right militia organizations.

Here’s the biggest problem: Mr. Bernier is giving cover to all those out there who are refusing to get vaccinated, not because of some underlying condition, but because they simply don’t want to. This phenomenon is stalling our pandemic recovery. Alberta, for instance, is in a crisis, with hospitals overrun with COVID-19.The province’s intensive care units are now treating a record number of patients sick with the virus, the vast majority of whom were not vaccinated. Imagine.

Meantime, Mr. Bernier is out there promoting the kind of nonsense that is fuelling anti-vaxxer rage and making the jobs of governments trying to tame the fourth wave that much harder. This will be the PPC leader’s greatest legacy and his greatest shame.

To this day, many of Mr. Bernier’s former colleagues in the Conservative party remain dumbfounded by what they are witnessing. They did not see this coming. Mr. Bernier was always a libertarian, but one who didn’t take himself too seriously. He had a playful sense of humour. He could be relied on to assume serious positions in government, if not always without incident.

But after he came up just short of winning the CPC leadership four years ago something changed, and not for the better. He seemed to become embittered and intent on doing as much damage to the CPC as he could.

There’s no question he’s sucking some support away from his old party in this election. It remains to be seen, however, if it will be enough to cost the CPC a shot at government.

Regardless, when the story of this election is written, Mr. Bernier will remain a historical footnote. And a disgraceful one at that.

Source: Maxime Bernier’s disgraceful election campaign

ICYMI John Ibbitson: Immigration isn’t an election issue and that’s something to celebrate

Agree. Part of the reason is that no party can win a majority or likely even a plurality given the large number of ridings where immigrants and visible minorities form a significant portion of the electorate.

One downside of immigration not being part of election discussions and debates is that there are issues that need to be discussed and debated but are not given fears of being labelled racist or xenophobic.

For example, questioning the Liberal government’s fixation on meeting higher targets during a pandemic, or its overall increase in immigration targets to address an aging population, doesn’t occur given fears that would likely be used by the Liberals to paint the Conservatives as anti-immigration. Hence the Conservative platform is silent on immigration levels:

There are plenty of issues being fought over in this election campaign, from the economy to vaccines to Afghanistan. But immigration in this country is not an issue, for which we should rejoice.

New census data revealed that the white population in the United States shrank by 8.6 per cent between 2010 and 2020. This may be the result of a declining fertility rate, or of an increase in the number of Americans who declare they are multiracial, or both. Whatever the reason, America becomes more racially diverse each year.

While many white Americans are fine with this, others resent the decline of white dominance. Replacement theory – an obnoxious, racist rant that maintains immigrants who vote Democratic are being imported to replace white Republicans – is coming out of the shadows.

“The Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate – the voters now casting ballots – with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World.” Fox News host Tucker Carlson said back in April.

Stephen Miller, who was a key adviser to former president Donald Trump, warned on Tuesday against allowing Afghan refugees who are fleeing the Taliban into the United States. “Resettling in America is not about solving a humanitarian crisis,” he told Laura Ingraham. “It’s about accomplishing an ideological objective – to change America.”

Europe is also torn. “2015 mustn’t be repeated,” German politicians declared this week, including major figures in the Christian Democratic Union, the party of departing Chancellor Angela Merkel. Hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria and elsewhere flooded Europe that year. There are strong anti-immigration parties in almost every European parliament.

But in Canada, Justin Trudeau has promised to let in at least 20,000 Afghan refugees if his Liberal party is re-elected on Sept. 20. Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole promised to do the same if his party forms government.

Even more important, neither the Conservatives nor the New Democrats are protesting against the Liberals’ decision to welcome more than 400,000 new permanent residents this year. They’re doing this mostly by converting the status of graduated students and temporary workers already in the country, to compensate for borders closed by the pandemic.

And while anti-immigration sentiment is poisoning the democratic well in the United States and Europe, polls show that, for most Canadians, immigration is a non-issue.

Canada’s wide-open immigration policy is deeply entrenched. In 1960, when John Diefenbaker was the Progressive Conservative prime minister, his immigration minister, Ellen Fairclough, proposed that Canada set an annual immigration intake of 1 per cent of its population. Cabinet rejected that proposal, but ultimately accepted her plan to eliminate racial discrimination when selecting immigrants.

Liberal prime minister Lester Pearson’s government came up with the race-blind points system for selecting immigrants. Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau declared that Canada was a multicultural society. Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney opened the floodgates by setting a target of 250,000 immigrants a year. Liberal prime ministers Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, and Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, embraced that target.

By making more than 400,000 people permanent residents this year, Canada will finally meet, and exceed, the intake proposed more than half a century ago by Ms. Fairclough.

We are alone in this. Britain, Australia and New Zealand are cutting back on immigration, while in the United States – where many immigrants are undocumented Latinos – Democrats and Republicans have been at war over the issue for decades.

Canada brings in, per capita, more immigrants than any other country for mostly selfish reasons. Immigrants are often better educated than native-born Canadians. They compensate for labour shortages, start businesses and pay taxes that support the health care and pension needs of an aging Canadian society.

We are far, far from perfect. Racism, especially toward Black Canadians and Indigenous peoples, is part of our past and present. Horror at the realization that hundreds, probably thousands, of First Nations children lie buried in unmarked graves at residential schools muted Canada Day celebrations this year.

But the fact remains that a fifth of all Canadians were not born in Canada, that we are arguably the most diverse society on Earth. That no major political party has a problem with this is something to celebrate.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-immigration-isnt-an-election-issue-and-thats-something-to-celebrate/

Ibbitson: China’s population decline poses challenges and opportunities

We need to broaden thinking beyond “more immigration is the solution” to how Canada could adapt to a world of population decline, where fewer higher-skilled Chinese and other groups may wish to come here:

China is reportedly holding back census data because it shows the country’s population has started to decline, years ahead of even the most aggressive predictions.

If so, every game changes: global warming projections, global population projections, geopolitical and economic projections.

The world’s most populous nation is now a nation on the wane.

The Financial Times reported Tuesday that China has delayed the release of its 2020 census, which was expected earlier this month, because the data reveals that China’s population has declined from a peak of more than 1.4 billion in 2019 to less than 1.4 billion now.

If true, this is one of the most momentous events of our time. Many analyses of the geopolitical rivalry between China and the United States are predicated on the assumption of continued Chinese growth and relative American decline.

But it now appears United Nations population projections, which had China’s population peaking in the 2030s before levelling off and gradually starting to decline, were off by more than a decade.

The reason, according to a report this month by the Bank of China, is steadily falling fertility. Even after the ban on more than one child per family was lifted in 2015, China’s fertility continued to fall, to a level well below that needed to sustain the population.

For that reason, Darrell Bricker and I, in our book Empty Planet, predicted that population decline would hit China sooner and harder than expected. The question was how soon and how hard. If the answer to the first question is right now, then China could lose nearly half its population by the end of the century – more if fertility continues to fall.

The decline could have been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has suppressed birth rates across much of the world, as couples put off having a child during this period of economic insecurity. A post-pandemic baby boom is unlikely: Past experience shows that once couples put off having a child, they don’t make up for it later on. Instead, they settle for having fewer children than they’d planned.

Population decline will present both opportunities and challenges for China. Environmentally, the news is encouraging: There will be fewer new coal-fired generating stations needed, as the number of people on the grid goes down instead of up.

The problem of labour shortages could be addressed by bringing in temporary foreign workers and improving productivity through automation.

But preserving economic growth becomes difficult when there are fewer young people every year buying their first refrigerator, their first car, their first baby stroller. Fewer young consumers also means fewer taxpayers to sustain the pensions and health care costs of older people, and fewer adult children to look after the needs of aging parents.

Countries that lose population every year stagnate economically: Italy, Spain, Japan. China is the new Japan. And that could lead to problems containing the discontent of an overtaxed, overworked, increasingly frustrated population. China announced this week that it planned to gradually raise the age of mandatory retirement, which is currently 60 for most men.

This delivers a huge competitive advantage to the United States. That country’s fertility rate has also reached record lows. But despite the effort of former president Donald Trump to seal the country’s borders, the U.S. continues to let in immigrants, both legal and illegal.

The U.S. needs to return, as quickly as possible, to its former practice of welcoming a million new permanent residents each year. That may be difficult, given rising nativism among conservatives, but if Americans want to stay ahead in the race for economic and political power, immigration is the not-so-secret weapon.

In any event, as my colleague Doug Saunders noted Tuesday on Twitter, the news about the Chinese census “will help make immigration a seller’s market.” As fertility rates decline in China and other source countries, such as Philippines and India, and as labour shortages grow in China, Japan and elsewhere, the question for immigrant-friendly countries such as Canada will shift from “how many should we let in?” to “how many can we convince to come?”

That is another reasons why former prime minister Brian Mulroney and others are right to maintain that Canada should greatly increase its immigration intake. We need to get them while we still can.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-chinas-population-decline-poses-challenges-and-opportunities/

@JohnIbbitson: Canadians need to form a consensus on long-term #immigration policy [but what should that consensus be?]

John Ibbitson follows on this previous article, Politics It’s time for Canada to focus on expanding our population, highlighting former PM Mulroney’s call for increased immigration and a Canadian population around 100m by the turn of the century and the need for a white paper to help build the arguments to get us there.

However, before we get too caught up in the advocacy by the Century Initiative, the Business Council of Canada and the Globe and Mail, we should step back and ask some fundamental questions a white paper should ask beyond the basic demographic arguments:

  • Does more immigration increase or decrease inequality?
  • In the immediate post-COVID period, should immigration increase given what we know from previous downturns regarding how the most recent immigrants suffer short and some longer-term scarring?
  • How should we factor in the lower-paid “essential workers” and will increased immigration improve their working conditions or not?
  • Longer-term, what are the more likely affects of automation and AI on the labour market and the need for skilled and semi-skilled workers?
  • How realistic is it to improve settlement of immigrants outside of our major cities and regions given past and current experience?
  • Will Canada realistically invest in the needed public and private infrastructure needed to accommodate such growth, again given past and current experience?
  • Will Canada be able to do so in a manner that respects our current and likely future climate change commitments?
  • Will Indigenous peoples accept increased immigration and the focus on newcomers compared to their concerns?
  • Will the greater imbalance between immigration to Quebec and the rest of Canada place further pressures on the federation?

A white paper that largely replicates the group think of the Century Initiative and related players would be a disservice to Canadians, rather than the needed more thoughtful and balanced discussions:

Though progressives and conservatives in the United States disagree on practically everything, they do agree that Canada has a better immigration system.

But as a new paper in the magazine American Affairs points out, they think this only because neither side fully understands how the Canadian system works.

Right-wing Americans praise Canada’s ability to police its borders while focusing on economic migrants who can make an immediate contribution. No less an authority than Donald Trump declared, when he was president: “I think we should have merit-based immigration like they have in Canada” so that “we have people coming in that have a good track record.”

But American conservatives would be less impressed if they realized that Canada protects its border through a dense skein of rules and regulations, a so-called bureaucratic border wall.

The left, on the other hand, celebrates Canada’s robust commitment to diversity through immigration. But they would be appalled to learn that those same bureaucratic rules – such as requiring that all employees provide a social insurance number – make it virtually impossible for undocumented workers to live in this country, and that our system limits diversity by favouring immigrants from more-developed regions, such as South and East Asia, over less developed regions, including parts of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Each side sees only what it wants to see, emphasizing those aspects of Canada’s system that align with their ideological predispositions, while excluding the others,” wrote Michael Cuenco, a Canadian writer based in Calgary.

“The most vocal elements of the Right and the Left are like the blind men grasping at different parts of an elephant. No one has bothered to offer to either side an honest description of the whole.”

Both the left and the right in the U.S. might be even more nonplussed were they to learn that former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney has joined a growing chorus calling for Canada to more than double its population to 100 million by 2100.

They might not understand that what truly distinguishes the Canadian immigration system from the American is that Canada’s reflects decades of increasing ideological convergence on immigration policy, even as America becomes ever-more polarized.

The question for Canadians is whether we are willing to converge on future immigration targets in the same way we have in the past.

Progressive Conservative prime minister John Diefenbaker first declared that immigration should be colour-blind. Lester B. Pearson’s Liberal government converted that principle into the points system. Liberal Pierre Trudeau married immigration to multiculturalism, while Mr. Mulroney tripled the intake. Liberals Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin converted a system that favoured the family-class category into one that favoured economic-class applicants, while Conservative Stephen Harper and Liberal Justin Trudeau further refined and expanded the program.

If future Liberal and Conservative governments were to choose to, say, (a) convert the temporary target of more than 400,000 immigrants a year recently established to overcome the cutbacks imposed by the pandemic into a permanent target; b) gradually move toward 500,000 a year over the course of this decade and c) reassess Canada’s needs as the population approaches 50 million at mid-century, that would be nothing out of keeping with the past six decades of immigration policy, which saw Canada’s population more than double from 18 million in 1960 to 38 million today.

Whether we want that future is something else. Proponents of population growth must convince skeptics that Canada can more than double in numbers while still meeting commitments on global warming, that cities can grow in population without increasing sprawl, that creativity and productivity require a young, dynamic populace.

But we need to remember: We got where we are by agreeing we should grow robustly, and that it didn’t matter where people came from, as long as they shared the values that ground the nation. That’s what brought the Irish and the Germans and the Ukrainians here in the 19th century, what brought the Italians and Portuguese and Greeks here after the war, what brought the Vietnamese boat people here and people from Somalia and Lebanon, the Hong Kongers and then Mainlanders and new arrivals from French West Africa and Haiti, the Sikhs and Hindus from India and the Sri Lankans and Filipinos and …

A hundred million? Why stop?

Source: Canadians need to form a consensus on long-term immigration policy

Evidence Mounts That Reducing Immigration Harms America’s Economy

Some useful recent studies, particularly with respect to H1-B visas and skilled workers. Less convinced by some of the general demographic arguments, similar to those made in Canada by the Century Initiative and others. Shout-out to Canadian Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson, authors of the book Empty Planet, making the same broader arguments (with some of the same fallacies):

Donald Trump’s immigration policies were harmful to America’s long-term economic future. That becomes clearer as one compares the Trump administration’s actions to the projected increase in the number of immigrants under recently introduced immigration legislation. The U.S. Citizenship Act, developed by the Biden administration, would aid long-term economic growth by increasing the number of legal immigrants by 28%. In contrast, Trump administration policies would have cut legal immigration in half. The immigration policy path America chooses in the long-term will make a significant impact on economic growth and future labor force growth, of which immigrants are a vital part.

Economic growth or growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is necessary for a country’s inhabitants to improve their standard of living. “GDP growth [economic growth] is made up of growth in the workforce plus growth in labor productivity,” according to Robert S. Kaplan, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “Unless slower workforce growth is offset by improved productivity growth, U.S. GDP growth will slow.”

The Trump administration’s immigration policies harmed long-term economic growth by reducing labor force growth and potential productivity growth through restrictive policies.

High-skilled foreign nationals are important to productivity growth. Yet the Trump administration increased the denial rates of H-1B petitions, causing many long-time H-1B visa holders to leave the United States. The administration also blocked the entry of H-1B visa holders and published regulations that employers believed would make it nearly impossible for many foreign-born scientists and engineers to work in the United States.

“When we aggregate at the national level, inflows of foreign STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] workers explain between 30% and 50% of the aggregate productivity growth that took place in the United States between 1990 and 2010,” according to economists Giovanni Peri (UC, Davis), Kevin Shih (RPI) and Chad Sparber (Colgate University). Research by economist Britta Glennon found rather than saving jobs, H-1B restrictions “have the unintended consequence of encouraging firms to offshore jobs abroad.”

While the Biden-supported U.S. Citizenship Act may have a difficult time becoming law, it serves as a marker for changes to legal immigration by increasing both family and employment-based immigration. The bill would have a positive impact on labor force growth by raising immigration by 28% a year after a transition period.

“Increasing legal immigration by 28% a year would increase the average annual labor force growth in the United States by 23% over current U.S. projections, which would help economic growth and address a slower-growing U.S. workforce,” according to an analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP). “The average annual labor force growth could be even more than 23% compared to a scenario of no immigration increases because the Bureau of Labor Statistics currently projects the U.S. labor force will grow by 800,000 a year, and that baseline growth may be lower after 2029 without the increase in immigration contained in the bill.”

“In contrast,” the analysis continues, “if the United States continued the Trump administration’s policies that administratively reduced legal immigration by approximately 49%, average annual labor force growth would be approximately 59% lower than compared to a policy of no immigration reductions, according to an NFAP analysis. Under policies that reduced legal immigration by half, in 40 years the United States would have only about 6 million more people in the labor force than it has today. Admitting fewer immigrants results in lower economic growth because labor force growth is an important element of economic growth and immigrants play a major part in both current and future labor force growth.”

A recent National Foundation for American Policy study by Madeline Zavodny, an economics professor at the University of North Florida, shows the positive impact of immigration.

“Analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data finds international migration was the only source of population growth in rural areas as a whole during most of the 2010s,” writes Zavodny. “International migration is strongly related to employment growth in both rural and metro counties. Each additional international migrant is associated with an additional 1.2 jobs in rural counties over 2010 to 2018. The estimate for rural areas suggests that international migration adds to total employment well beyond the jobs filled by international migrants. International migrants may have a larger impact on employment because of the jobs they fill. International migrants may work in jobs that otherwise would go unfilled by local residents and thereby enable businesses to expand.”

Due to declines in fertility, immigration keeps the United States from experiencing negative population growth, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

New economic research finds that negative or falling population growth may yield harmful economic outcomes beyond slowing labor force growth. Fewer available minds may mean fewer solutions to our problems. What if the breakthrough advances in mRNA made by Katalin Karikó, an Hungarian-born immigrant to America, never happened or occurred years later because Karikó was never born? How would that have affected the development of vaccines and other potential solutions to medical problems?

In a recent paper, “The End of Economic Growth? Unintended Consequences of a Declining Population,” Charles I. Jones, a professor of economics at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, writes, “What happens to economic growth if population growth is negative? We show below—first in models with exogenous [external] population growth and then later in a model with endogenous (internal) fertility—that negative population growth can be particularly harmful.” He asks: “How do idea-based growth models behave when population declines?”

In sum, with fewer people, “knowledge and living standards stagnate.” Jones writes, “If knowledge were to depreciate at a constant exogenous [external] rate, it is easy to show in the simple models at the start of this paper that this would lead to declining living standards in the presence of negative population growth, an even more dire outcome.”

“We refer to this as the Empty Planet result,” writes Jones. “Economic growth stagnates as the stock of knowledge and living standards settle down to constant values.”

Immigration can prevent population decline in the United States and allow America to grow—if U.S. elected officials choose the right policies. “Among great powers, the coming population decline uniquely advantages the United States,” according to Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson, authors of the book Empty Planet, the title to which Charles Jones referred. “For centuries, America has welcomed new arrivals, first from across the Atlantic, then the Pacific as well, and today from across the Rio Grande. Millions have happily plunged into the melting pot—America’s version of multiculturism—enriching both its economy and culture. Immigrants made the twentieth century the American century, and continued immigration will define the twenty-first as American as well.

“Unless. The suspicious, nativist, America First groundswell of recent years threatens to choke off the immigration tap that made America great by walling up the border between the United States and everywhere else. Under President Donald Trump, the federal government not only cracked down on illegal immigrants, it reduced legal admissions for skilled workers, a suicidal policy for the U.S. economy. If this change is permanent, if Americans out of senseless fear reject their immigrant tradition, turning their backs on the world, then the United States too will decline, in numbers and power and influence and wealth. This is the choice that every American must make: to support and open, inclusive, welcoming society, or to shut the door and wither in isolation.” It is a significant choice.

Source: Evidence Mounts That Reducing Immigration Harms America’s Economy

Ibbitson: It’s time for Canada to focus on expanding our population

As regular readers will know, I am not convinced that the arguments of the Century Initiative take into account the shorter-term impact of COVID on immigrant outcomes and the longer-term impact of automation and AI in their support of vastly increased immigration.

But the range of well-known people they have mobilized in their advocacy is impressive.

Their National Scorecard on Canada’s Growth and Prosperity is yet another approach to measuring how well Canada is doing with respect to overall socio-economic outcomes.

I do find it odd that a newspaper would take such a high profile advocacy role, essentially organizing a promotional event rather than a discussion more inclusive of diverse perspectives. Preaching to the converted rather than engaging those who need to be engaged.

That being said, the idea of a white paper makes sense, but its mandate needs to take a broader perspective on immigration, citizenship and multiculturalism than just justifying increased immigration levels.

And should we not also consider how to manage an aging population, not just focussing on increasing it?

On Brian Mulroney’s watch, Canada almost tripled the number of immigrants coming to Canada each year, from fewer than 90,000 people to more than 250,000.

Now Canada’s 18th prime minister is calling on Canadians to embrace what he calls “a new national policy” that would commit this country to achieving a population of 100 million by the end of the century.

“If we are going to maintain … our internal strength and our growth and our capacity and our outside influence, we need more people – a lot more,” Mr. Mulroney said Tuesday at a forum presented by The Globe and Mail and by Century Initiative, which champions the goal of a Canada that is 100-million strong by 2100.

Increasing the population by more than 60 million people would be “an historic and challenging initiative,” Mr. Mulroney acknowledged in an interview. After all, it took more than 150 years to get Canada’s population to 38 million. More than doubling it in about half that time would require much greater political and popular will than exists today.

Hence his proposal for “a white paper which indicates the need for 100 million people by the turn of the century.”

A white paper is a document through which a government puts forward a major policy proposal. If there is sufficient support, after consultation with experts, provincial governments and the broader population, it becomes settled policy, maintained by future governments whatever their partisan stripes.

Criticism of a white paper can be more important than the white paper itself. A deeply flawed white paper in 1969 that essentially called for the assimilation of First Nations into the general population helped give birth to Indigenous activism.

Conversely, a white paper on immigration produced three years earlier, which called for the final dismantling of racial barriers to accepting newcomers, led the Pearson government to invent the points system, which rated applicants based on how well they matched what the country was looking for, regardless of race.

High levels of race-blind immigration, embraced by both Liberal and Conservative governments, gave us the Canada we live in today. But the pandemic has restricted recruitment, and once the shortfall has been made up, there remains this vital question: How many people should live here?

A white paper on population, followed by a parliamentary committee travelling across the land, would encourage discussion, build momentum and, no doubt, focus opposition, which deserves to be heard.

Ideally, both Liberals and Conservatives at the federal level would express support for a target of 100 million through votes in the House and Senate.

If so, “that would become the new objective of Canada in this area,” Mr. Mulroney said, “and all governments would be bound to strive to achieve it.”

Such a goal would push Canada ahead of Germany and France and Britain in population, and probably ahead of Japan and South Korea and Vietnam as well.

That’s because the economic insecurity generated by the pandemic has exacerbated the decades-long trend of fertility decline. Low fertility, coupled with resistance to immigration, has led to population decline in dozens of countries.

Canada’s willingness to aggressively recruit newcomers leaves us better positioned to weather the demographic storms ahead than just about any other country. Taking immigration from 300,000 a people a year to a million, along with enhanced supports for child care and parental leave, would reduce labour shortages and help pay for the health care and pension needs of older Canadians, while boosting creativity and innovation. Imagine the contribution that a Toronto that was the size of New York or London or Tokyo would make to this country and to the world.

That said, the pandemic has completely disrupted how we live and work. The patterns of the past may never return. All sorts of assumptions – about downtowns and suburbs and rural areas, about commutes – may have to be rethought.

And as fertility continues to drop, the greatest obstacle to achieving a population of 100 million might be, not internal resistance, but a shrinking pool of available immigrants.

Nonetheless, Mr. Mulroney urges us to embrace “this indispensable cause.” For him, “this is a great dream of Canada, and it requires leadership to bring it true.”

Let the discussion begin, and let it begin with a new white paper on population.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-its-time-for-canada-to-focus-on-expanding-our-population/

Ibbitson: Ottawa needs an aggressive immigration plan

Will be interesting to see how this largely opening the gates to anyone already in Canada will affect overall economic integration and outcomes.

This fixation of meeting the target level in the middle of a downturn and at a time of ongoing travel restrictions has an element of unreality, given the recent RBC report predicting only 275,000 new Permanent Residents compared to the target of 401,000 (less than 70 percent) and what I am seeing in observing monthly data.

Many of his points are, of course, valid, particularly greater recognition of lower skilled/paid essential workers, increased competition to attract immigrants by the USA and European countries, and a possible decline in potential interest in emigration from current source countries given their declining birthrates.

His commentary is, like so many, silent on the anticipated impact of automation and AI on the economy and labour force:

If you are studying or working in Canada on a visa, if you are here as an asylum claimant, even if your visa has expired and you are an undocumented resident, the odds have never been better that you could soon be on the path to citizenship.

In order to maintain immigration targets, the federal government is aggressively courting non-Canadians who are living here to apply to become permanent residents.

This may stoke resentment among some old-stock Canadians who don’t like the change, literally, in the complexion of the population. But there is no alternative, if Canada is to grow and prosper.

Because borders were closed by the pandemic, we accepted only 184,000 new permanent residents last year, rather than the target of 341,000. Most of those granted status were already in the country when the pandemic hit.

To make up the loss, the Liberal government has set goals of 401,000 new permanent residents this year. But with borders still closed, a recent Royal Bank report predicted we’ll be lucky to get to 275,000 in 2021.

“With the effects of the pandemic looking more likely to remain into the spring and summer, the headwinds … will keep immigration into Canada low throughout most of 2021,” wrote senior economist Andrew Agopsowicz.

There are between a million and a million and a half people in Canada who are here on work or student visas, who are seeking asylum, or who are undocumented because their visa expired or for some other reason.

To show it’s serious about converting as many as possible to permanent residents, the federal government greatly lowered the entrance requirement in its most recent call for applications under the Express Entry system, which fast-tracks economic-class applicants.

“It’s a catch-all draw, meant to transition many of those who are eligible to be permanent residents and who are currently residing in Canada,” explained Kareem El-Assal, director of policy at Canadavisa.com, the website of an immigration law firm.

Mr. El-Assal believes that Canada can meet the target of 401,000 new permanent residents this year by drawing on the pool of people already here and by bringing in family-class immigrants, who are permitted to enter Canada under pandemic rules.

I would argue that Ottawa and the provinces should also look for qualified workers from the pool of asylum claimants and undocumented workers as well, subject to the appropriate background checks. Right now we need workers more than we need to enforce bureaucratic rules.

The government’s determination to meet its immigration targets coincides with a lesson many have learned about the value of so-called low-skilled work in areas such as agrifood and health care.

“The pandemic revealed that many people who were described as low-skilled were really essential workers,” said Usha George, director of the Centre for Immigration and Settlement at Ryerson University. When many Canadians were forced out of work or had to work from home because of lockdowns, “they contributed to keeping us all going,” she said.

Our immigration system is geared to attracting high-skilled workers in the professions and trades. But our economy also depends on people whose work we undervalue, and they too should be welcomed to Canada as permanent residents.

Surveys show a significant minority of Canadians believe that immigration levels are too high. There is plenty of evidence on social media that some Canadians of European background resent high levels of non-European immigration.

But Canada’s fertility rate has been declining since the 1970s, and is now more than half a baby shy of replacement rate. Without immigrants, our population would soon start to decline.

Meanwhile, India and the Philippines, two major source countries of immigrants to Canada, have brought their fertility rates down to replacement rate, or very close to it. And factoring in the robust economic growth they were enjoying before the pandemic, there could soon be fewer people available – or interested – in coming.

Aging societies across the developed world need immigrants to fill vacant jobs and to pay taxes to support the elderly, whatever nativist know-nothings may think.

In the not-too-distant future, rather than the federal and provincial governments choosing which applicants get to come to Canada, we will be begging potential newcomers to pick us over the American and European competition. The sooner we get used to that idea, the better.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-ottawa-needs-an-aggressive-immigration-plan/

Ibbitson: COVID-19 is severing a lifeline of immigration Canada needs to survive. Here’s what we can do to repair it

Ibbitson makes the case to accelerate the transition of temporary residents to Permanent Residents, as they are already in Canada and thus travel restrictions are not an issue.

To a certain extent, this is already happening. This past June, almost 70 percent of new Permanent Residents were previously temporary residents. July numbers should be out sometime next week.

However, once we get through the “inventory” of qualified temporary residents, the lack of new arrivals will become more of an issue:

Tens of thousands of future Canadians are missing. Because of closed borders brought on by COVID-19, only a fraction of those who were supposed to become new permanent residents this year and next will actually arrive.

This country relies on immigrants to sustain its population and expand its economy. But Canada admitted only 34,000 permanent residents in the second quarter of this year, down 67 per cent from the same period in 2019. Most new permanent residents were already in Canada on work or study permits.

And lockdowns and closed visa offices overseas could suppress immigration for years to come.

There is a fix, though only for the short term. Tens of thousands of international students, temporary foreign workers and asylum claimants who are in Canada right now could be fast-tracked to permanent residency.

“We’ve got all these people that are here,” Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said in an interview. “And if we give them permanent residence, they’re going to be able to contribute to Canada. So we end up benefiting from it.”

Converting students, temporary foreign workers and asylum claimants into permanent residents could ease the shortfall of immigrants until Ottawa can get the overseas applications process back on stream, air travel fully resumes and barriers between countries come down.

If they come down.

In an August report, the International Organization for Migration warned “the age of migration itself may now be coming to an end.” More than 90 per cent of the world’s population live in countries with pandemic-related restrictions on new arrivals.

A recent report from the Royal Bank of Canada estimated that, best case, immigration in 2020 will be down 30 per cent from the target of 341,000 set by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

“The worry is that what happens in the short run may turn into the long run,” said Andrew Agopsowicz, a senior economist at the bank and author of the report.

Consider the situation of international students. There were 642,000 of them studying in Canada in 2019. Only the United States and Australia take in more foreign students. As well as contributing $22-billion to the Canadian economy and helping to sustain 170,000 jobs, they serve as one of the main sources of new permanent residents each year. But not this year. In the second quarter, the Immigration department issued just over 10,000 new study permits, compared with 107,000 a year earlier.

The University of Waterloo, with its strong reputation in engineering and computer sciences, plays host to about 7,000 international students each year, along with about 35,000 Canadian students.

But apart from the roughly 2,000 students who are already here, almost all foreign students will be taking their courses online from their home country, said Christine McWebb, the university’s assistant vice-president responsible for international operations.

Those international students who are in Canada and wish to remain provide a pool of applicants who could be fast-tracked to permanent residency. And those who can’t get here this year can be encouraged to come as soon as conditions permit.

Ottawa agrees. Last week, the Immigration department announced new measures that will make it easier for students to study from abroad while still being able to later obtain a work permit in Canada.

Another potential pool of permanent residents can be found among temporary foreign workers. Although the federal government took special measures to ensure agricultural workers were admitted this year, TFW permits were down about 50 per cent in the second quarter. These workers are critical to sustaining not just agriculture, but health care, construction, transportation and other sectors.

“We call them temporary foreign workers but the work they are doing is neither temporary nor superfluous,” said Usha George, director of the Centre for Immigration and Settlement at Ryerson University. “These people are called unskilled, but they are essential workers.”

A third group of potential permanent residents might be more problematic, at least to some.

In 2019, just over 16,500 people sought asylum in Canada by making use of unauthorized border crossings, such as Roxham Road in Quebec. But as of the end of July, this year, just over 3,100 asylum seekers had been intercepted by the RCMP, owing to the closing of the border between Canada and the U.S. and the severe reduction in international travel.

The majority of claims referred to the Refugee Protection Division are eventually approved, although the process can take years. Many claimants are already working. They speak or are learning English or French, have housing, and have forged ties within the community. Expediting their claims would provide new permanent residents to make up for those not arriving from overseas, while eliminating the backlog.

“We’d be better off saving the money of the refugee claim process,” Ms. Dench said. “And the sooner they can obtain permanent residence, the sooner they can get on with their lives and really contribute to Canadian society.”

Ottawa has already announced that some asylum claimants working in the health sector may apply to become permanent residents.

Immigrants to Canada tend to be better educated than the native-born and they start more businesses. As Canada’s population ages, they will be vital to providing both the labour and the taxes needed to care for older citizens.

With luck, either a vaccine or effective treatments will arrive next year, weakening the impact of COVID-19 to the point where borders can reopen. In the meantime, the opportunity exists to convert as many students, foreign workers and asylum seekers into permanent residents as possible, to make up for the shortfall.

Whatever their background, we can expect the new arrivals will make splendid Canadians. They almost always do.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-covid-19-is-severing-a-lifeline-of-immigration-canada-needs-to-survive/