Ibbitson: Will Trudeau’s Liberal government open the door to at-risk Uyghurs?

Should be an easy decision to make:

This autumn, the House of Commons will debate a motion from Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi calling on the federal government to accept 10,000 Uyghur refugees who have fled China but are at risk of being deported back, where they would face severe persecution.

That motion achieved greater urgency with the arrival of a United Nations report on Wednesday that states the Chinese government may be guilty of crimes against humanity in its treatment of Uyghurs and other minorities.

The question is whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals government will act to protect Uyghurs at risk. On Thursday, the government was sending mixed signals.

Mr. Zuberi put forward the motion, which calls on the federal government “to expedite the entry of 10,000 Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in need of protection, over two years starting in 2024 into Canada.”

Motions, if passed, are not binding on the government, but they do represent the will of the House.

“Not only are you dealing with extremely vulnerable people, you are also dealing with the compounding issue of genocide,” Mr. Zuberi told me. “The UN report shows how immediate and concrete action on the part of governments is urgently needed.”

The report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights does not use the word “genocide.” But its findings are damning. “Serious human rights violations have been committed” in Xinjiang, concludes outgoing commissioner Michelle Bachelet, that “may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”

These crimes include arbitrary detention, torture, forced medical treatment, sexual offences, forced birth control, forced labour, suppression of religious freedom and family separations.

“We’ve known about these crimes against humanity for quite a number of years,” said Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, who is a senior fellow at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

“Now we have detailed documentation of the crimes, and official confirmation that all of this is happening.” She urged the federal government to swiftly launch a program that would bring government-sponsored Uyghurs into Canada. “I don’t believe they need to wait until 2024.”

But when the House unanimously declared last year that “a genocide is currently being carried out by the People’s Republic of China against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims,” Mr. Trudeau and most of the cabinet stayed away from the vote. Marc Garneau, then foreign affairs minister, abstained, “on behalf of the government of Canada.”

The Trudeau government walks a fine line in its relations with Beijing. It banned the Chinese company Huawei Technologies from participating in the rollout of Canada’s 5G network, but that came long after allied countries made the same decision.

The government is planning new legislation to toughen the rules banning the import of goods produced through forced labour, but we lag behind other countries.

In that context, Thursday was typical. Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly issued a strong statement of support for the UN report. “The release of this much-anticipated report was critical,” it said. “The findings reflect the credible accounts of grave human rights violations taking place in Xinjiang. This report makes an important contribution to the mounting evidence of serious, systemic human rights abuses and violations occurring in Xinjiang.”

However, a statement sent to me by Aiden Strickland, press secretary to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, was far more cautious. “The safety of Uyghur refugees is a high priority,” Ms. Strickland said. “However, we are not in a position to comment more specifically at this time as it could put this vulnerable population at risk.”

The statement made no mention of the UN report.

Few nations can match Canada’s record for swift action to rescue people at risk. More than 70,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Canada in the past six months; we brought in 25,000 Syrians displaced by civil war seven years ago; and while we have settled fewer than half of 40,000 Afghans at risk that we promised to bring in, at least the commitment is there.

Canada could easily absorb 10,000 Uyghur refugees. And we wouldn’t need to wait until 2024 to bring them here. We could do it right now, and we should.

Let’s hope the House strongly affirms Mr. Zuberi’s motion. Better yet, let’s hope the Trudeau comes to the help of Uyghurs, even if it does offend the regime in Beijing.

Source: Will Trudeau’s Liberal government open the door to at-risk Uyghurs?

Ibbitson: Ottawa needs to catch up to the private sector in digitalizing its operations

Good column. A real challenge that he identifies, an institutional and cultural one, is changing the culture from one focussed on policy and program development to one focused on citizen-centred service.

The original concept for Service Canada to do just that was smothered by senior leadership in the public service, dominated by the policy folks, who had understandable worries regarding the risks involved in such reversal of hierarchies.

But still a goal worth pursuing:

“Taking out the trash” refers to governments burying awkward news by announcing it late on a Friday afternoon, when journalists and opposition politicians have finished their regular duties and are preparing for the weekend. The Liberals have taken this dishonourable practice to a whole new level.

On Saturday morning, the federal government announced a new task force of cabinet ministers to address backlogs at government offices.

“The delays in immigration application and passport processing are unacceptable and the Government of Canada is urgently working to resolve them as soon as possible,” the release stated.

To deliver such news, not on a Friday afternoon, but on a Saturday morning, and on the St. Jean Baptiste Day holiday weekend, right after the House of Commons has risen for the summer (which means no Question Period for months), and while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is overseas – that’s some trash that needed taking out.

There are both temporary and deep-seated reasons for these backlogs and for interminable lineups at airports.

The waning of the pandemic has resulted in distortions, from sudden surges in travel to rising inflation. All governments are struggling to adjust.

But there are deeper issues. As the baby boomers retire, labour shortages are appearing in all sectors.

In the competition for workers, the federal public service is able to offer job security and handsome benefits. But bureaucrats are bureaucracies, and many workers prefer the more dynamic environment of the private sector. At the federal level, the bilingualism requirement for many positions can also be a liability.

It’s more than that, though. The federal public service is Sears and the world is Amazon.

To respond to the surge in passport applications, Families Minister Karina Gould told the CBC’s Rosemary Barton, “we’ve hired 600 new people to work in the passport section since January. We’re hiring an additional 600.”

To any problem, this government’s solution is: hire more people. Between 2010 and 2015, while the Conservatives were in office, the federal public service shrank from 283,000 workers to 257,000. On Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s watch, it has grown to 320,000, as of 2021. That’s a huge increase.

Meanwhile, the backlog of potential immigrants waiting to hear if their application has been accepted has ballooned to 2.4 million people. Airports are jammed with travellers waiting to board a flight. And people have been lining up at passport offices for days.

And while those backlogs will go away, the red tape that everyone has been complaining about for years won’t. Increasing the size of the public service has not increased its efficiency. Quite the opposite.

Corporations must adjust to changing circumstances or risk going out of business. Sears could not adapt to the digital efficiency of Amazon. But the federal public service is a monopoly, and resists innovation.

When dealing with the federal government, why is so much paper involved? Why do you often have to visit an office? Why are things sent through the mail? Why are wait times so long even in normal conditions? Ottawa is a generation behind the private sector in digitalizing its operations.

The relentless push to concentrate power in the centre also hampers service delivery. Front-line workers need the authority to make decisions, even if mistakes sometimes embarrass the government. Instead, authority is concentrated in the Privy Council and Prime Minister’s offices, creating further delay.

There’s another issue, one specific to this Liberal government. It considers announcing services more important than delivering them. Every budget contains a new child-care program or a new business development bank. It doesn’t contain mechanisms for delivering new and existing services more efficiently.

The federal government doesn’t need more people, it needs fewer people and more software.

Public service reform must start with a relentless focus on serving the customer, also known as the citizen. Reform means measuring the performance of the public service primarily through the lens of customer satisfaction.

Someday, the federal government will have to tackle this problem root and branch. Because the labour shortages are only going to worsen. The backlogs are only going to grow. People are going to get angrier. And no ad hoc task force will accomplish anything, Including this one.

Source: Ottawa needs to catch up to the private sector in digitalizing its operations

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/

Ibbitson: Trudeau’s decision over Quebec’s seats puts him at risk either way

Expect government will bend with no opposition from other parties, given precedents of Bills 21 and 96, even if questionable to do so:

When Justin Trudeau returns from his European travels, he will need to decide, and quickly, whether to prevent Quebec from losing a seat in the House of Commons.

Politically, all options are bad for the Prime Minister.

Back in 2011, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government moved to correct the problem of chronic underrepresentation in the House of Commons for the fast-growing provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. In the final version of the formula enshrined in the Fair Representation Act, Quebec was also awarded extra seats, to ensure its representation in the House fairly reflected its share of the national population.

As required by law and the Constitution, Elections Canada applied the 2011 formula for its latest calculation of the distribution of seats in Parliament. The results, released two weeks ago, show the House of Commons growing by four seats, from 338 to 342. Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario will receive additional seats. But Quebec will have one seat taken away, reducing its representation from 78 to 77.

Not surprisingly, the Bloc Québécois and the Quebec government are demanding that the province’s representation not diminish, on the grounds that its MPs have a special mandate in the House to speak for and protect Quebec’s culture and language.

The Liberal government has two options. The first is to do nothing and allow Elections Canada to proceed with redistribution by establishing electoral commissions for each province that will redraw riding boundaries based on the latest census data. That process is scheduled to begin in February.

The second option is to introduce a new redistribution formula through legislation. That formula could ensure that Quebec’s seat count does not fall below its current 78 seats, though the province’s relative weight would decline as the House expands in size.

As an alternative, the formula could guarantee that Quebec’s representation never drops below, say, 25 per cent of all seats in the House. That was a provision in the Charlottetown accord of 1992, which was defeated in a referendum.

Any legislation would need to be introduced soon, so that Elections Canada knows whether, when and how to proceed with redistribution. But moving to protect Quebec’s interests will prove contentious.

“There’s risk if he does do it and there’s risk if he doesn’t do it,” Professor Lori Turnbull, director of the School of Public Administration at Dalhousie University, told me. Allowing the existing representation order to stand would anger Quebec voters, who would face a future of steadily weakening influence in Ottawa.

But moving to protect Quebec’s standing in the House would further anger Western voters who believe French Canada’s interests are protected while theirs are ignored.

This is especially true in the wake of the new cabinet announced last week, which weakened Prairie influence and emphasized the fight against climate change over oil-and-gas interests.

When asked how he would address the problem, Benjamin Forest, who researches the political representation of minorities at McGill University, said, “I would take the easy way out and add enough seats” so that Quebec once again has 78 seats in the House.

Many voters complain about sending more and more MPs to Ottawa. But Canada itself is growing, adding a million people every two or three years, mostly through immigration. The House should reflect that growth.

As well, previous federal governments at different times guaranteed smaller provinces a minimum number of seats, resulting in a House of Commons skewed in favour of rural interests. The riding of Cardigan, Prince Edward Island, has a population of just over 36,000; Cypress Hills—Grasslands in Saskatchewan has 68,000. But Vancouver East has 110,000 and the riding of Burlington, in Greater Toronto, has 121,000.

Adding more urban seats would make the House more democratic by diminishing the relative weight of the countryside, and increasing the importance of urban issues, such as transit, over rural, such as dairy supports.

Of course the best solution to Quebec’s declining demographic influence in the House would be for the province to increase its population through immigration. Instead, Premier François Legault has cut back on immigration. So long as that continues, the influence of Quebec must ultimately decline, however much politicians rejig the House of Commons to prevent it.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-trudeaus-decision-over-quebecs-seats-puts-him-at-risk-either-way/

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