“The Times They Are A-Changin’?” – Immigration debates and discussions

A few years ago, it was rare to find critiques of the government’s expanding levels of immigration, and the overall consensus among the provinces, business organizations and lobby groups, media and academics organizations in favour of this approach.

However, over the past year or so, there has been significant commentary questioning the approach given the impact on housing availability and affordability, healthcare and infrastructure. In addition to my 2021 Increasing immigration to boost population? Not so fast, former head of the British Columbia public service, Don Wright, wrote one of the stronger critiques, Will Trudeau make it impossible for Eby to succeed?

National unity and the demographic weight of Quebec in Canada has become a second major critique. A series of articles in Quebecor papers (LE QUÉBÉC PRIS AU PIÈGE PAR OTTAWA) highlighting an accelerating decline of Quebec’s population relative to the rest of Canada, reflecting different immigration rates has provoked considerable political debate and commentary in Quebec and English Canadian media.

While the Quebecor were written in an incendiary manner, the substance was correct. The approaches continue to diverge, there is, IMO, an unhealthy consensus in favour ot the current and projected levels of permanent and temporary migration among federal and provincial politicians, business organizations, academics among others.

Some of the commentary recognized that. Stuart Thompson the The Hub, A new era of immigration politics has started in Canada was one of the first to recognize the potential importance to immigration debates and discussions. Chris Selley chimed in, noting that Ottawa has no answer to Quebec’s anti-immigrant narrative. Campbell Clark stressed that Two solitudes emerging on immigration in Quebec, and noted the lame arguments on both sides of the debate. Formally, the Quebec government reject[ed] Trudeau’s immigration plan, fears decline of French.

The role of the Century Initiative received increased prominence given that these debates were happening around the time of one of its Globe and Mail sponsored conferences. Immigration Minister Fraser’s denial that the government had not adopted the 100 million population goal of the Century Initiative was met with understandable cynicism by Robert Dutrisac, Blanc bonnet, bonnet blanc, Konrad Yakabuski, L’«initiative du siècle» n’est pas l’idée du siècle among others, along with more reporting and analysis, Serons-nous vraiment 100 millions de Canadiens en 2100?.

English media commentary focussed more on the politics, with Chantal Hébert asking whether Hébert: Quebec’s separatists were searching for a way to revive their cause. Is this it? and Konrad Yakabuski, another rare journalist who writes in both English and French media, noting that François Legault’s anti-immigration crusade is coming back to bite him. Andrew Phillips in the Star dismissed Quebec concerns, framing it as a Panic attack in Quebec over immigration threat. Althia Raj, also in the Star, argued that: Pierre Poilievre is courting voters by capitalizing on immigration fears in Quebec, both discounting the substance of Quebec concerns and not questioning the federal government approach.

And of course most English language was focused on the less important issue of the passport redesign (not a fan, but my worry is that the controversy will make the government even more skittish about releasing the revised citizenship guide, Discover Canada, first promised in 2016).

Surprisingly, Andrew Coyne focussed more on Quebec, politics and demography, rather than contributing his usual economic take on issues. Almost a childish approach in 100 million Canadians by 2100 may not be federal policy, but it should be – even if it makes Quebec howl, largely ignoring the negative impacts on housing, healthcare and infrastructure and, more bizarrely, falling into the trap of overall GDP rather than productivity and per capita GDP (which most of his economic-related columns focus on).

All this being said, the Quebec government took advantage of the controversy to announce changes to its immigration program Six éléments à retenir des annonces de Québec en immigration, including increased levels to 60,000 new permanent residents while allowing ongoing temporary resident growth. This slight-of-hand was of course noted by Michel David, Et la lumière fut and Plus d’immigrants pour éviter une « louisianisation » ici ? 

This modest increase will not, of course, make any significant change to the ongoing divergence in population growth between Quebec and the Rest of Canada and Quebec’s relative weight in the country.

A recent Statistics Canada study, Unemployment and job vacancies by education, 2016 to 2022, highlighting the disconnect between immigration policy, which favours university-educated immigrants, and immigrant employment, which favours lower-skilled immigrants, provides another example of how our immigration policies appear more to be “policy-driven evidence” rather than “evidence-based policy.”

Questions on immigration levels have broadened from housing, healthcare and infrastructure impacts to the impact on the Canadian federation given the imbalance between Quebec and the Rest of Canada. A potential sleeper issue, parallel to Quebec’s relative share of the population is with respect to Indigenous peoples, given that high immigration levels dwarf Indigenous growth (visible minorities increased by 26.5 percent, Indigenous peoples by 9.4 percent, 2021 compared to 2016).

As I have argued previously, we need to find a way to have more productive discussions on immigration rather than the various solitudes between the “more the merrier” and “great replacement” camps (where most Canadians are). The disconnect between Quebec and the Rest-of-Canada is a long-term threat to the federation.

A focus on the practicalities – housing, healthcare and infrastructure impacts – is likely the best way forward and may provide a means to reduce the divergence between the “two solitudes.”

Ideally, of course, some form of commission examining demographics, immigration, and these impacts would provide deeper analysis and recommendations than current IRCC consultations or any other internal review.

To end with a quote from another favourite musician of mine:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Clark: Let’s get politicians to tell us how they would close Roxham Road, not why, Yakabuski: Trudeau can no longer avoid tough choices on Roxham Road 

As always, the herd instinct at play in coverage of irregular arrivals and Roxham Road, given Premier Legault’s public pressure and Pierre Poilievre’s simplistic solution.

Two of the best are Clark, who calls for a needed but unlikely change, and Yakabuski who argues time for though choices:

Let’s hold all our politicians to one simple rule about Roxham Road: Don’t tell us what you want to do about it. Tell us how you would do it.

Quebec politicians have been calling for the unofficial crossing on the border between Quebec and New York state to be closed. And Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has called for the feds to do so within 30 days.

But as it turns out, there is no switch that opens and closes the border. So what is it they are actually proposing?

Mr. Poilievre said that all it takes is a simple decision, but he couldn’t say what the government should decide to do.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons why the government should do something. People want the border to be under control. They want migration to be safe and orderly.

And there is palpable frustration when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau essentially says he’s got nothing other than time to wait for U.S. President Joe Biden to solve the problem by changing a border agreement. And that’s essentially what Mr. Trudeau was saying Wednesday when he said that if Roxham Road was closed, asylum-seekers would just cross at other places. It’s probably true, but not a solution.

So how can it be done? Quebec Premier François Legault wants a deal with the U.S., too, but faster. Mr. Poilievre – and most politicians – don’t want to specify. Real proposals usally involve doing things the politicians don’t want to talk about. And many so far have been ineffective or ridiculous.

When People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier was running for the leadership of the Conservative Party in 2017, he proposed sending the military. In 2018, two Conservative MPs proposed declaring the entire 8,891-kilometre border into an official border crossing, arguing that would trick the U.S. into taking back those who entered Canada at Roxham Road. That same year, then-Parti Québécois leader Jean-François Lisée briefly suggested a fence, or “a sign, a cedar grove, a police officer, whatever.”

Mr. Poilievre told reporters on Tuesday that it must be easy, because Mr. Trudeau shut down Roxham Road during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. But that didn’t happen with a snap of the fingers. When the two countries shut their borders, the U.S. agreed that Canada could direct border-crossers back. When the borders reopened, that arrangement ended. And here we are again.

That’s one thing to remember: Once they step foot into Canada, non-Americans can’t be sent back to the U.S. unless the U.S. agrees. The Safe Third Country Agreement allows for asylum seekers who enter Canada at official border posts to be turned back, but not those who cross in between. Canadian governments have tried for years to get the U.S. to change that, to no avail. On Wednesday, Mr. Trudeau said he’s working on it.

Of course, the simplest way to stop people from crossing at Roxham Road would be to scrap the Safe Third Country Agreement. Then asylum-seekers would just show up at official border crossings, as they did before 2004. And as Mr. Legault pointed out the other day, Mr. Trudeau tweeted in 2017 that Canada welcomes those fleeing persecution and war. It’s just that scrapping the agreement would almost certainly bring a lot more of them.

Some have proposed a fence. But obviously, people can go around it. There are lots of places to cross the border. It might disrupt the organized route to Roxham Road but police would probably have to intercept border-crossers at more places.

And there is Mr. Bernier’s idea: Send in the troops. Or police. But the real question is what they would do. Presumably they wouldn’t shoot everyone. Would all asylum-seekers be thrown in jail indefinitely?

Maybe there are better ideas. It would be nice to hear them. But Canadian politicians who don’t tell us how they would do it are avoiding the talk about costs, or the potential for border breaches to proliferate, or locking people up, or toughening the system.

Those are things debated by American politicians, who argue about harsher rules to discourage asylum-seekers from trying to enter the U.S. Mr. Biden is proposing refusing asylum claims from people who travelled through central America.

But now, Mr. Trudeau has essentially admitted he won’t do anything until Mr. Biden agrees to solve the problem for him.

And those such as Mr. Poilievre who call for Roxham Road to be closed are just mouthing meaningless words until they tell us how.

Source: Let’s get politicians to tell us how they would close Roxham Road, not why

François Legault has got his mojo back, or sort of.

After returning from Ottawa this month with a fraction of the billions of additional health care dollars he had been demanding for his province, the Quebec Premier was ridiculed by opposition parties and political pundits alike for being all bark and no bite.

Thanks to Ottawa’s recent transfer to cities in Ontario of asylum seekers arriving at the unofficial border crossing at Roxham Road in Quebec, Mr. Legault has been able to boast to the home crowd that he’s still got it. That his government’s constant efforts to force Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to do something about the “migrant crisis” facing Quebec is finally getting results. Thanks to his leaked letter to Mr. Trudeau and an op-ed in The Globe and Mail, Mr. Legault can tell Quebeckers that he has finally got the rest of Canada’s attention, if not its respect.

In truth, Ottawa last year began bussing some asylum seekers from Roxham Road to hotels in Cornwall, Niagara Falls, Ottawa and Windsor when it could no longer find rooms in Quebec. Since early 2023, those transfers have been occurring on a systematic basis. Mr. Legault wants Ottawa to continue to transfer migrants to other provinces, arguing correctly that Quebec has “taken on a completely disproportionate share” of asylum seekers entering Canada since Roxham Road was reopened in late 2021.

Mr. Legault also wants Mr. Trudeau to permanently “close the breach” in Canada’s border-security by prohibiting migrants from claiming asylum at Roxham Road, as it had temporarily done for an 18-month period during the pandemic. Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is calling for Roxham’s closing within 30 days, also citing the pandemic-related closing as proof that Ottawa has the authority to act unilaterally to address the loophole in the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement that enabled more than 39,000 migrants to enter this country in 2022 at what has become our most official unofficial border crossing.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser called Mr. Poilievre’s ideas “reckless” and lacking in “depth and understanding.” Amid a global migration crisis, Mr. Fraser added, Canada has a “responsibility to implement real, long-term solutions.”

Real, long-term solutions are not this government’s strong suit. It does excel at posturing, virtue signalling and dithering. But it has offered little evidence that it is taking concrete steps to address the increasing flow of asylum seekers at Roxham Road.

It is easy to understand why a government that prefers to project a compassionate image would be reluctant to act in any manner that might make it look heartless to some. Turning asylum seekers away at Roxham Road, in effect surrendering them to U.S. immigration authorities, would subject the Trudeau government to a backlash from within Liberal ranks.

Yet, it must be pointed out that this government has no problem turning away asylum seekers who arrive at official land border crossings. Are those who arrive at Roxham Road any more worthy of refugee status in Canada than the others?

What we do know is that almost half of “irregular border crossers” who arrived in Canada after 2016 saw their asylum claims rejected by the Immigration and Refugee Board or abandoned or withdrew their applications before a final IRB determination. And that the surge in irregular crossings at Roxham Road has left the IRB with a backlog of more than 74,000 cases that is growing rapidly each month. A refugee system that is meant to provide asylum to those fleeing persecution in their country of origin is being exploited by smugglers who prey on vulnerable people seeking to escape economic hardship in Latin America and Africa.

There are those in Liberal circles who argue that the “fundamental premise” at the heart of the STCA – specifically, the designation of the United States as a “safe” country for refugee claimants – no longer holds true. But as the Federal Court of Appeal found in 2021, it is up to the federal cabinet to undertake continual review to ensure that the United States continues to meet the criteria for safe country designation.

Not once since taking power in 2015 has the Trudeau government sought to cancel this designation – not even during the dark days of Donald Trump’s presidency, when some migrant children were separated from their parents.

The Supreme Court of Canada is expected to rule on the STCA this year. Even if it upholds the legality of the agreement, a new proposal by President Joe Biden to turn away all asylum seekers at the U.S. border who arrive from a third country via Mexico raises new questions about Canada’s continued designation of the U.S. as a safe country.

For Mr. Trudeau, there are no “real, long-term solutions” to the Roxham Road dilemma that do not include making tough, even excruciating, choices.

Source: Trudeau can no longer avoid tough choices on Roxham Road

Yakabuski: Déplacer le problème

Good analysis of the issues and the problem for the government, particularly should the Supreme Court rule against the STCA. Potential for a comparable impact to the 1985 Singh decision which required the government to provide due process to anyone who arrived on Canadian soil:

La ministre de l’Immigration du Québec, Christine Fréchette, s’est dite heureuse d’apprendre que les autorités fédérales avaient transféré vers l’Ontario la presque totalité des quelque 500 demandeurs d’asile arrivés par le chemin Roxham en fin de semaine dernière. Selon Mme Fréchette, voilà bien la preuve que le gouvernement du Québec « peut avoir des résultats » en exprimant sans cesse son mécontentement face à l’inaction d’Ottawa devant le flux grandissant de migrants irréguliers qui passent par le chemin Roxham depuis sa réouverture, en novembre 2021.

La ministre Fréchette a imploré le gouvernement fédéral de continuer d’envoyer ailleurs au Canada plus des trois quarts des demandeurs d’asile qui traversent ce poste frontalier non officiel pour ne laisser au Québec qu’une proportion de migrants équivalente à son poids démographique au sein de la fédération canadienne. « On espère que ça va se maintenir dans le temps, et que ça va être la nouvelle approche de gestion de la frontière », a-t-elle ajouté.

Toutefois, le bonheur des uns fait parfois le malheur des autres. Dans la région de Niagara, dans le sud de l’Ontario, l’arrivée des migrants en provenance du chemin Roxham suscite de vives inquiétudes chez les autorités municipales et les organismes de bienfaisance. Cette région est dotée d’un plus grand nombre de chambres d’hôtel que la moyenne en raison de sa vocation touristique, active surtout en été. Alors, il n’est pas surprenant qu’Ottawa l’ait choisie comme destination pour les migrants que le Québec dit ne plus avoir la capacité d’accueillir.

Or, alors que le gouvernement s’apprêterait à louer environ 2000 chambres d’hôtel afin d’y loger temporairement les migrants dans le sud de l’Ontario, certains intervenants expriment des réserves sur la nouvelle stratégie d’Ottawa. « Sans préavis, sans préparation, cela nous met dans une position très difficile, a affirmé cette semaine le maire de Niagara Falls, Jim Diodati, dans une entrevue au St. Catharines Standard. Comment pouvons-nous gérer une situation comme celle-ci quand nous avons déjà une crise du logement et une crise d’accessibilité au logement ? Cela va absolument exacerber un problème déjà existant. » À quelques semaines du début de la saison touristique printanière, il a dit prévoir « un gros problème » à l’horizon.

En agissant de la sorte dans ce dossier, le gouvernement du premier ministre Justin Trudeau démontre de nouveau ses piètres capacités en matière de gestion de crise. Il est pris entre sa base progressiste, qui souhaiterait ouvrir les frontières canadiennes à tous ceux « qui fuient la persécution, la terreur et la guerre » — comme M. Trudeau avait lui-même promis de le faire en 2017 dans un gazouillis dorénavant entré dans l’histoire —, et les contradictions de ses propres politiques d’immigration.

Les véritables réfugiés se voient damer le pion par des passeurs qui exploitent la vulnérabilité des migrants fuyant des conditions de vie difficiles en Amérique latine ou en Afrique pour leur retirer le peu d’argent dont ils disposent. On a beau vouloir être généreux envers ces personnes, l’intégrité de notre système d’immigration en prend pour son rhume et le Canada consolide sa réputation de passoire dont profite quiconque veut s’en prévaloir.

Ottawa se trouve dépourvu d’arguments face à un gouvernement américain qui n’a aucun intérêt à accéder à sa demande de « moderniser » l’Entente sur les tiers pays sûrs (ETPS). Les quelque 40 000 demandeurs d’asile qui sont arrivés au Canada par le chemin Roxham en 2022 ne constituent qu’une goutte d’eau dans l’océan migratoire américain. Même des politiciens démocrates comme le maire de New York, Eric Adams, ne voient pas pourquoi ils devraient se priver d’utiliser cette « faille » dans l’ETPS pour pallier quelque peu leur propre crise migratoire. Avouons-le, leur crise est infiniment plus sérieuse que la nôtre.

Alors, quoi faire ? Le transfert des demandeurs d’asile du chemin Roxham vers les autres provinces permet peut-être au gouvernement fédéral de réduire la pression sur le Québec, mais il risque de créer des tensions ailleurs au pays. Il est aussi possible que les passeurs voient dans la démarche fédérale un geste qui facilite leur travail. La capacité d’accueil du Québec atteint peut-être ses limites, mais le transfert par Ottawa des demandeurs d’asile vers l’Ontario crée plus de possibilités pour les profiteurs du système.

Espérons que le gouvernement Trudeau se dotera d’un plan B au cas où la Cour suprême invaliderait l’Entente sur les tiers pays sûrs. En 2020, la Cour fédérale avait trouvé que cette entente violait le droit à la vie, à la liberté et à la sécurité de la personne garanti par la Charte canadienne des droits et libertés. La Cour d’appel fédérale avait par la suite infirmé cette décision.

Toutefois, la notion selon laquelle les États-Unis ne constituent pas un pays « sûr » pour les demandeurs d’asile jouit de l’appui de beaucoup d’adeptes au Canada. En cas d’invalidation de l’ETPS, le Canada devrait accueillir tous les demandeurs d’asile qui arrivent en provenance des États-Unis, même ceux qui passent par un poste frontalier officiel. Cela créerait un méchant dilemme pour M. Trudeau, au point de peut-être même le forcer à répudier le fameux gazouillis dont il semble encore si fier.

Source: Déplacer le problème

Yakabuski: Trudeau’s anti-Islamophobia adviser’s job is to preach to the converted

Another relevant commentary on the politics of the appointment. As noted earlier, there appointment has drawn criticism from the more secular Muslims, and Iranian Canadians protesting the mandatory hijab in Iran and the Iranian regime:

The noxious effects of identity politics have been on full display in Canada since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Jan. 26 nomination of Amira Elghawaby as his government’s Special Representative on Combatting Islamophobia.

In Quebec, the reaction to Ms. Elghawaby’s appointment has gone far beyond the boilerplate outrage that usually awaits external critics of the province’s efforts to preserve its language, identity and values. This time, the indignation is real and proportional to the offence Mr. Trudeau committed in promoting someone who has perpetuated stereotypes about Quebeckers as hostile toward “others.”

At its core, the controversy over Ms. Elghawaby’s nomination represents a clash of two forms of identity politics practised in Canada that are equally corrosive. One seeks to validate claims of Canada as a country founded on oppression and racism, with both continuing to permeate our institutions and society to the point of inflicting relentless pain on Indigenous, racial, religious and sexual minorities. Practitioners of this kind of identity politics question whether Canada Day is even worthy of celebration, as Ms. Elghawaby herself has done.

Mr. Trudeau rarely misses an opportunity to give succour to those who hold such views. His very appointment of Ms. Elghawaby is an affirmation of this clenched-fist approach to fighting discrimination, which leaves little room for compromise or dialogue. It takes its cues from the radical American left that infiltrates university campuses and silences free speech. And it is embraced by progressive politicians to mobilize their bases.

Ms. Elghawaby’s brand of identity politics has now entered into direct collision with Quebec nationalism, arguably Canada’s oldest form of identity politics and one based on Quebeckers’ perception of themselves as an endangered (and historically oppressed) cultural minority in North America. They take offence, often far too easily, whenever their survivalist reflexes are criticized by others as inward-looking or worse.

It was this kind of identity politics we witnessed on Tuesday when the National Assembly adopted a unanimous resolution calling for the repeal of Ms. Elghawaby’s nomination. MNAs from the far-left Québec Solidaire, which practises American-style identity politics with a Québécois twist, abstained on the vote.

Exhibit A in the case against Ms. Elghawaby’s appointment is a 2019 Ottawa Citizen op-ed on Quebec’s religious symbols ban, co-authored with her Canadian Anti-Hate Network colleague Bernie Farber, in which the duo wrote: “Unfortunately, the majority of Quebeckers appear to be swayed not by the rule of law, but by anti-Muslim sentiment.” They went on to refer to a Leger Marketing poll that found that the vast majority of Quebeckers with negative views of Islam supported Bill 21, which prohibits public employees in a position of authority, including teachers, from wearing religious symbols on the job.

It is dangerous to rely on a single poll on a subject as emotionally charged and personal as religion to make a sweeping statement about the motivations of Quebeckers for supporting Bill 21. Besides, one can hold negative views of Islam without being anti-Muslim or Islamophobic. Just as one can criticize Papal doctrine on homosexuality, women and contraception without being anti-Catholic.

The op-ed in question was hardly an isolated incident. In her role as a contributing columnist for the Toronto Star and on social media, Ms. Elghawaby has regularly made uncharitable comments about Quebeckers. In a 2013 column, she saidphilosopher John Ralston Saul “might as well be writing about today’s Quebec” when he referred, in a 2008 book, to the “fear of loss of purity – pure blood, pure race, pure national traits and values and ties” in the Western world.

The cherry on the sundae, if you like, was the tweet (now deleted) that Ms. Elghawaby posted in response to a 2021 Globe and Mail op-ed by University of Toronto philosophy professor Joseph Heath, who had argued that “the largest group of people in this country who were victimized by British colonialism, subjugated and incorporated into Confederation by force, are French Canadians.” Ms. Elghawaby’s tweet did not mince words. “I’m going to puke.”

Ms. Elghawaby is, as the saying goes, entitled to her opinions. But one wonders how she can promote understanding of and tolerance toward Muslims among Canadians if she starts out from the defensive crouch she has taken in her writings. Tolerance is a two-way street.

Then again, Ms. Elghawaby’s appointment has little to do with any attempt by Mr. Trudeau to foster meaningful dialogue. Her nomination is meant to delight outspoken interest groups whose support is critical to Liberal political fortunes.

On Wednesday, Ms. Elghawaby, who will be paid between $162,700 and $191,300 a year in her new post, apologized to Quebeckers for “the hurt [she] caused with her words.” And Mr. Trudeau said he understood Quebeckers’ “distrust” toward organized religion, given the Roman Catholic’s Church’s dominance before the Quiet Revolution. But it was mostly all damage control.

By all accounts, Ms. Elghawaby’s job mainly involves preaching to the converted. She has already shown herself to be very good at that.

Source: Trudeau’s anti-Islamophobia adviser’s job is to preach to the converted

Yakabuski: The Trudeau government seems awfully cozy with McKinsey – and that demands scrutiny

More questioning of the role that McKinsey has played and continues to play in Canada.

Had some experience while at Service Canada working with high level consultants (not McKinsey) and, while they were instrumental in helping develop frameworks and strategies, it was a challenge to ensue they and us as public servants remained focussed on where their contribution was most needed.

And overall, government needs to focus on strengthening its policy and program capacity rather than over relying on outside expertise whose private sector expertise, while useful, is sometimes an unrealistic fit for the government context.

The money quote “Wedge yourself in and spread like an amoeba” applies more broadly than McKinsey:

Business schools across the country would do well to undertake a case study on McKinsey & Co.’s remarkable success in winning contracts from the federal government since Justin Trudeau’s Liberals took power. There, they’ll find insights into how Ottawa really works.

McKinsey, the pedigreed consulting firm that has been plagued by a series of conflict-of-interest scandals spanning several countries, has been practically wedded at the hip to Mr. Trudeau’s government since the firm’s then-global managing partner, Dominic Barton, was picked to head up Ottawa’s advisory council on economic growth in 2016.

Out of the supposed generosity of its heart, McKinsey provided pro bono research support to the council. We are told that this had absolutely no influence on the Trudeau government’s subsequent awarding of a string of multimillion-dollar contracts to the firm, including, as The Globe and Mail reported last year, a $24.8-million deal to advise the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) on “transformation strategies,” whatever that means.

This week, Radio-Canada arrived at its own tally of federal contracts awarded to McKinsey since Mr. Trudeau’s government was first elected in 2015: While the firm earned a mere $2.2-million in federal government work when Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were in power between 2006 and 2015, it has pocketed more than $66-million in less than seven years under the Liberals.

And even that sum, Radio-Canada conceded, does not provide a complete picture, since it leaves out contracts awarded by Crown corporations such as the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada. The government’s response to an order paper question submitted by Conservative MP Tako Van Popta included $84-million in federal payments to McKinsey in the 18 months up to November on various contracts. That total includes payments to BDC and EDC.

Bloc Québécois MP Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe asked Immigration Minister Sean Fraser to provide the details of McKinsey’s IRCC contracts at a meeting of the House of Commons immigration committee in November. Mr. Fraser referred the question to his deputy minister, Christiane Fox, who in turn asked assistant deputy minister Hughes St-Pierre to answer, though not before adding: “I’d like to point out that one of the contracts that McKinsey was awarded in the past was to deliver a training program for our Black employees wanting to move into a leadership position within the department.” As if diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives justify everything.

Mr. St-Pierre was equally unhelpful. “It was to advise us on how to transform the department,” was all he said of the largest and most recent contract the department handed to McKinsey.

The advisory council Mr. Barton headed called for a 50-per-cent increasein the number of permanent residents Canada accepts annually, from 300,000 in 2016 to 450,000 in 2021, to boost economic growth and reduce the old-age dependency ratio. The Trudeau government has gone even further than the council recommended, announcing plans in November to boost immigration numbers to 500,000 newcomers by 2025.

How Canada’s chronically backlogged immigration system can handle this surge is anyone’s guess. Whether McKinsey’s advice is worth the taxpayer money paid to the firm is equally impossible to discern. Ottawa refuses to provide a full accounting of the work McKinsey performed, or to make public any report the firm produced.

The chronology of McKinsey’s ever deepening business relationship with the federal government will not surprise anyone who has studied the strategies the firm has employed in any of the 65 countries in which it operates.

“Wedge yourself in and spread like an amoeba,” a senior McKinsey partner once said in explaining to young recruits how to win business from potential clients. “Once in, you should spread yourself in the organization and do everything.” The quote is included in When McKinsey Comes to Town, a recent book about McKinsey’s global activities by Walt Bogdanich and Michael Forsythe that examines the firm’s underbelly.

Can you draw a straight line between Mr. Barton’s cozy relationship with the Liberal government – Mr. Trudeau named him as Canada’s ambassador to China shortly after he stepped down from the top job at McKinsey – and the firm’s ability to win contracts in Ottawa? Is it just a coincidence that McKinsey landed a juicy deal to provide advice on how to transform the immigration department just after the advisory council Mr. Barton headed recommended transforming Canada’s immigration system?

These are not banal questions. Similar ones are swirling around French President Emmanuel Macron, whose government has also awarded countless contracts to McKinsey in recent years. French authorities have opened an investigation into the potential illegal financing of Mr. Macron’s 2017 and 2022 election campaigns. Among other things, the authorities are probing whether McKinsey associates worked on Mr. Macron’s campaigns for free as a networking opportunity that subsequently yielded lucrative paid contracts.

Wedge yourself in and spread like an amoeba, indeed.

Source: The Trudeau government seems awfully cozy with McKinsey – and that demands scrutiny

Yakabuski: Le Canada, champion mondial d’immigration

Good observations on the contrast between Quebec and the rest of Canada:

Le ministre fédéral de l’Immigration, des Réfugiés et de la Citoyenneté, Sean Fraser, s’apprête à dévoiler de nouvelles cibles en matière d’immigration pour 2023, 2024 et 2025. Et tout indique que l’annonce que M. Fraser fera mardi prochain prévoira une nouvelle hausse du nombre de résidents permanents par rapport aux dernières cibles, celles-là annoncées il y a un an à peine. Alors que le Québec promet de plafonner ses seuils d’immigration autour de 50 000 nouveaux résidents permanents par année, le reste du Canada, lui, s’apprêterait à bientôt accueillir plus de huit fois ce nombre. Nul besoin d’être économiste ou démographe pour anticiper les conséquences à court et à long termes de ces positions discordantes.

Déjà, le Québec voit sa part d’immigrants fondre comme peau de chagrin d’année en année. Destination de 19,2 % des immigrants arrivés au Canada entre 2006 et 2011, le Québec n’accueillait plus que 15,3 % des immigrants entrés au pays entre 2016 et 2021. Les données provenant du dernier recensement publiées cette semaine par Statistique Canada témoignent de l’énorme transformation démographique que connaît le Canada anglais, et ce, même en dehors de ses plus grandes métropoles.

À Hamilton et à Winnipeg, deux villes ayant une population semblable à celle de Québec, la proportion d’immigrants s’élève maintenant à plus de 25 % ; dans la Vieille Capitale, à peine 6,7 % des résidents sont nés en dehors du Canada. Dans la ville de Saguenay, une proportion famélique de la population est issue de l’immigration, soit 1,3 %, alors qu’à Red Deer et à Lethbridge, des villes albertaines de tailles semblables, les proportions sont de 16,9 % et de 14,4 %, respectivement.

Les chiffres frappent encore davantage l’imagination lorsque l’on tient compte des enfants des immigrants. Dans la grande région de Toronto, par exemple, presque 80 % des résidents sont immigrants de première ou de deuxième générations, selon une analyse des données du recensement effectuée par le démographe Doug Norris, de la firme torontoise Environics. À Montréal, environ 46 % des résidents sont immigrants ou enfants d’immigrants. Bien qu’il s’agisse d’une proportion passablement élevée, c’est moins qu’à Vancouver (73 %), qu’à Calgary (55 %) ou qu’à Edmonton (50 %).

Selon les résultats d’un sondage publié cette semaine par Environics, et effectué pour le compte de L’Initiative du siècle, les Canadiens sont plus favorables que jamais à l’immigration. Ceci n’est pas surprenant ; plus de 40 % des Canadiens sont immigrants ou enfants d’immigrants. On peut s’attendre à ce que ces gens aient un parti pris en faveur de l’immigration.

Mais le consensus canadien en matière d’immigration s’étend bien au-delà des communautés culturelles du pays. « Alors même que le pays accueille plus de 400 000 nouveaux arrivants par année, sept Canadiens sur dix soutiennent les seuils actuels d’immigration — la plus forte majorité en 45 ans de sondages Environics, a fait remarquer Lisa Lalande, présidente de L’Initiative du siècle, un organisme qui prône une politique d’immigration ayant pour but d’augmenter la population canadienne à 100 millions de personnes en l’an 2100. Malgré la rhétorique chargée sur l’immigration durant la campagne électorale provinciale, les Québécois appuient tout autant l’accueil des immigrants et des réfugiés que les Canadiens ailleurs au pays. »

Or, le sondage d’Environics fut mené en septembre, alors que la Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) promettait de maintenir les seuils d’immigration à 50 000 dans la province. Donc, l’expression « les seuils actuels d’immigration » n’a pas le même sens ici qu’ailleurs au Canada. Au Québec, ces seuils sont plutôt modestes ; dans le reste du Canada, ils sont très élevés.

Les 50 000 résidents permanents que le Québec s’engage à accueillir chaque année équivalent à environ 0,6 % de la population, et cette proportion est appelée à diminuer au fur et à mesure que la population augmentera. Les seuils d’immigration ailleurs au Canada s’élèvent à environ 1,2 % de la population par année, alors que cette population augmente à un rythme beaucoup plus rapide qu’au Québec. Au lieu de 400 000 nouveaux arrivants par an, c’est près de 500 000 immigrants que le reste du Canada pourrait bientôt en accueillir. Et des voix s’élèvent pour qu’Ottawa fasse preuve d’encore plus d’ambition en matière d’immigration.

« Bien que les chiffres absolus semblent élevés, ils doivent en fait être plus élevés encore en raison des défis démographiques du Canada, ont insisté pour dire l’ex-ministre libéral de l’Innovation, Navdeep Bains, et son ancien chef de cabinet, Elder Marques, dans un article publié la semaine dernière dans le National Post. Au début du XXe siècle, un Canada beaucoup plus petit accueillait autant d’immigrants que le Canada le fait aujourd’hui… Un Canada plus grand, plus riche et plus outillé nous attend si nous sommes prêts à faire le saut. »

Source: Le Canada, champion mondial d’immigration

Yakabuski: We cannot take Canadians’ positive views on immigration for granted 

Rare mainstream media commentary questioning the current orthodoxy regarding increased immigration and public support. Have wondered for some time whether housing, healthcare and other pressures will lead to a tipping point but as the latest Environics survey, no sign yet:

Canadians are global outliers in holding almost unfailingly positive attitudes about immigration.

Across the world, particularly in countries that have seen large and sudden waves of migrants in recent years, public opinion has turned harshly negative toward newcomers. The opposite has happened here, even in Quebec. Despite big increases in the number of immigrants this country accepts annually, fewer and fewer Canadians think our immigration levels are too high.

That is the finding made by the Environics Institute for Survey Research, which has been polling Canadians on this issue since 1977. Back then, more than 60 per cent of respondents thought the country was accepting too many immigrants. Now, only 27 per cent feel that way.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone. Canada has had the luxury of selecting immigrants in an orderly fashion. We even “choose” most of our refugees based on applications made outside Canada. And the Canada-U.S. border is an oasis of calm compared to the U.S.-Mexico border, notwithstanding the steady stream of asylum seekers arriving via Roxham Road in Quebec in recent years.

There is another, perhaps even more salient, explanation for why Canadians are so bullish on immigration. Fully 44 per cent of us are first- or second-generation immigrants, according to 2021 census data compiled by Environics chief demographer Doug Norris.

In the Greater Toronto Area, the proportion of first- and second-generation newcomers is 79.6 per cent. In Vancouver, it is 72.5 per cent. Even in most of the country’s smaller urban centres, outside of Quebec, about half of residents are now immigrants or the children of immigrants.

You are much more likely to view immigration positively if you are an immigrant yourself or the child of one. Immigrants account for more – much more – of the population here than in any other developed country except for Australia. And the proportion is set to rise sharply – to as much as 34 per cent of Canada’s population in 2041, from 2021′s record level of 23 per cent, according to Statscan’s projections.

What’s not to like? Well, for a country that is already experiencing a severe housing-affordability crisis and a major infrastructure deficit, welcoming around 450,000 new permanent residents on an annual basis, on top of tens of thousands of temporary foreign workers and international students, involves significant challenges.

Unfortunately, there are few signs that policymakers in Ottawa have thought through how the country can accommodate this influx without further straining our already strained health-care and education systems. While immigration can offer a partial solution to severe shortages of nurses and teachers – if provinces move more rapidly to recognize their credentials – overall it creates more consumers than providers of health-care and education services.

In a study prepared last year for Quebec’s immigration ministry, economist Pierre Fortin threw cold water on the idea – advanced in 2016 by Ottawa’s Advisory Committee on Economic Growth – that higher immigration levels could help resolve intractable labour shortages that have only grown worse since then.

“Resorting to immigration can relieve worker shortages at the individual firm level, though the great administrative complexity and the long wait times often render this process ineffective; but, unfortunately, at the macroeconomic level, the [council’s] idea that immigration can reduce labour shortages because it increases the working-age population is nothing more than a big fallacy of composition,” Prof. Fortin wrote. “This idea is based on incomplete logic that ‘forgets’ that immigration ends up increasing the demand for labour and not only the supply of labour.”

Next week, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser is expected to announce Ottawa’s revised immigration targets for 2023, 2024 and 2025. That announcement needs to be followed by a more elaborate strategy than Canada has seen to date to enhance the country’s capacity to integrate ever-increasing numbers of newcomers. Otherwise, we are only asking for trouble down the road.

Canada has been spared the backlash against immigration experienced in other countries, in part because few politicians see any mileage in stoking resentment toward newcomers. That is likely to remain true as long as our multicultural suburbs continue to determine electoral outcomes. But no one should take it for granted.

With the country’s emergency rooms running beyond capacity, its housing shortage leaving too many people on the sidelines and its public infrastructure in a steady state of disrepair, it would be a mistake to assume that attitudes here toward immigration will always remain so positive.

Source: We cannot take Canadians’ positive views on immigration for granted

David: Les pommes québécoises et les oranges suisses [immigration], Yakabuski: In Quebec, immigration takes centre stage again on the campaign trail

More on Quebec election immigration debates, starting with Michel Davidd:

François Legault a cette fâcheuse habitude de prendre des raccourcis intellectuels qui déforment la réalité à sa convenance, comme il le fait presque quotidiennement dans le dossier du troisième lien.

Pour justifier sa décision de limiter le nombre d’immigrants à 50 000 par année alors que le gouvernement Trudeau prévoit en accueillir jusqu’à 450 000 pour l’ensemble du Canada, le chef de la CAQ a fait valoir les avantages des petits pays comme la Suisse et les États scandinaves.

Personne ne doute de leur extraordinaire réussite dans une multitude de domaines où une population plus nombreuse peut compliquer les choses. Il est clair que la taille n’est aucunement un gage de richesse ou de qualité de vie.

M. Legault sait cependant très bien qu’il compare des pommes et des oranges quand il établit un parallèle entre des États qui détiennent tous les attributs de la souveraineté et une simple province dont les pouvoirs sont limités, notamment en matière d’immigration. Que leur voisin allemand ouvre les vannes de l’immigration n’empêche en rien la Suisse ou le Danemark de fixer leurs propres règles sans provoquer chez eux un quelconque déséquilibre démographique ou politique.

Il va de soi qu’une explosion du nombre d’immigrants au Canada anglais, alors que le Québec choisit de le limiter, ne peut qu’affaiblir son poids au sein de la fédération et rendre encore plus difficile sa capacité d’affirmer sa différence.

Et suivre le mouvement canadien, ce qui imposerait au Québec d’accueillir 100 000 immigrants par année, compromettrait encore plus sûrement son caractère français, dont les chiffres du dernier recensement ont encore démontré la fragilité.
* * * * * 
Même dans un État souverain, la capacité d’intégration des nouveaux arrivants a ses limites. En avril dernier, la première ministre suédoise, Magdalena Andersson, déclarait que son pays « n’avait pas réussi à intégrer les nombreux immigrés qu’il a accueillis au cours des deux dernières décennies, ce qui a donné naissance à des sociétés parallèles et à la violence des gangs ».

Issue du Parti social-démocrate, Mme Andersson n’est pourtant pas une politicienne de droite adepte de la théorie complotiste du « grand remplacement ». La Suède s’est montrée très généreuse — peut-être trop — lors de la crise migratoire de 2015, en étant le pays européen à accueillir le plus grand nombre de migrants par habitant. « Nous allons devoir revoir nos vérités antérieures et prendre des décisions difficiles », a relevé la première ministre.

Le Québec n’est évidemment pas seul à tenter de concilier le désir de préserver son identité et la nécessité de répondre aux besoins du marché du travail. Au
Danemark, également dirigé par une première ministre sociale-démocrate, Mette Frederiksen, une politique migratoire très restrictive se traduit par un taux de chômage très bas et un manque criant de main-d’oeuvre.
* * * * * 
S’il est difficile pour un État souverain de trouver le juste équilibre, cela devient pratiquement impossible pour le gouvernement qui ne dispose pas de tous les éléments pour résoudre l’équation.

Il y a quelque chose de surréaliste dans le débat sur les seuils d’immigration auquel la présente campagne électorale donne lieu. Chaque parti semble tirer un chiffre de son chapeau, bien qu’il n’ait aucun pouvoir sur la sélection de la moitié de ceux qu’il compte accueillir et ne soit pas en mesure d’évaluer la capacité d’intégration de la société québécoise.

Au-delà de la « compatibilité civilisationnelle » évoquée par le Parti conservateur du Québec, il va de soi qu’un plus grand nombre de personnes exige plus de logements, de places en garderie, de travailleurs de la santé, d’enseignants, etc. Ce qui exige précisément de disposer de tous les outils nécessaires.

Le rapatriement des pouvoirs en matière d’immigration est la seule réclamation commune aux cinq partis, qu’ils soient fédéralistes ou souverainistes. Mais le refus d’Ottawa demeure toujours aussi catégorique.

Jean Charest avait espéré que Stephen Harper fasse preuve d’ouverture. François Legault avait misé sans trop y croire sur Andrew Scheer, puis sur Erin O’Toole. S’il devient premier ministre, Éric Duhaime se fait fort de convaincre Pierre Poilievre et ses homologues conservateurs au Canada anglais. Cela demeure bien hypothétique, c’est le moins qu’on puisse dire.

De passage à la table éditoriale du Devoir, mardi, le chef conservateur a proposé une démarche commune de tous les partis représentés à l’Assemblée nationale, ce qui apparaît déjà plus plausible, sans toutefois offrir la moindre garantie de succès.

Depuis le début de la campagne, M. Legault n’a pas reparlé de la grande conversation nationale sur l’immigration qu’il avait évoquée au printemps dernier sans en préciser la forme, mais il faudra bien faire quelque chose. Si cet exercice pouvait simplement permettre de séparer les pommes et les oranges, ce serait déjà quelque chose.

Source: Les pommes québécoises et les oranges suisses

And from the Globe’s Yakabuski, a good overview:

It wouldn’t be an election campaign in Quebec without a debate about immigration.

Elsewhere in the country, elections come and go without much talk about immigration. A broad consensus exists on the topic across the political spectrum and political parties rarely, if ever, seek to differentiate themselves on the issue. That, it seems, is the Canadian way.

In Quebec, however, immigration has become a hot-button issue that features prominently in party platforms. The issue played a determining role in the 2018 campaign as the Coalition Avenir Québec’s signature promise to slash the number of newcomers the province accepts each year propelled it to victory over the Quebec Liberal Party. Under then-premier Philippe Couillard, the Liberals had set an annual target of 60,000 permanent residents; the CAQ, under François Legault, vowed to cut the number to 40,000. It crushed the Liberals.

Within a couple of years, though, the CAQ government increased its annual target for new permanent residents – to 50,000 – and oversaw an explosion in temporary foreign workers to help alleviate a severe labour shortage amid a clamouring for employees from the business sector. The somewhat ironic result is that Quebec has seen a greater influx of foreigners under the CAQ – to more than 93,000 in 2019 and 100,000 expected this year – than it ever did under the Liberals. Proof that there is a lot more than meets the eye on the immigration file.

The nuances get lost on the campaign trail, however, as the parties once again go at each other over immigration levels in advance of the Oct. 3 provincial election.

Mr. Legault maintains that the CAQ’s 50,000 cap on permanent residents represents the number of newcomers the province can integrate each year without threatening its French character. On Monday, he conceded that Quebec’s population is destined to continue to decline as a share of the Canadian population as Ottawa boosts national immigration targets to 450,000 permanent residents in 2024. But that is the price Quebec must pay to remain an island of French in North America.

Besides, small is beautiful. “Switzerland is an extraordinarily rich, and extraordinarily dynamic, small country,” Mr. Legault said. “Being big might be nice, but what’s important is having a [high] quality of life for the people who live in Quebec.”

But maintaining Quebeckers’ quality of life will become an increasing challenge as the province’s working-age population shrinks and the proportion of seniors rises to 24.8 per cent in 2030 from 20.3 per cent in 2021, according to the Quebec Finance Ministry’s own projections. With a population aging faster than the rest of the country outside Atlantic Canada, future economic growth will be severely handicapped.

That reality has not stopped the sovereigntist Parti Québécois from vowing to cut immigration levels further – to 35,000 permanent residents annually, or less than 8 per cent of the Canadian total – if it wins on Oct. 3. At that rate, Quebec’s share of Canada’s population (which now stands at 22.5 per cent) would likely plummet even more rapidly than it is forecast to fall under Statistics Canada’s most recent projections, which show it falling to 19.8 per cent by 2043.

To back up his plan, Parti Québécois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon has referred to a study produced this year for the Quebec Ministry of Immigration by economist Pierre Fortin that disputes the argument that higher immigration levels are needed to address labour shortages as “a big fallacy,” since an influx of newcomers creates demand in the economy that serves to exacerbate shortages for workers, housing and health care.

Prof. Fortin’s study is especially critical of Ottawa’s immigration targets, arguing they will lead to “bureaucratic congestion and confusion,” produce scarce economic benefits, and increase the “social risk of stoking xenophobia and encouraging a rejection of immigration.”

Under leader Dominique Anglade, the Liberals are proposing to boost the number of permanent residents Quebec accepts to 70,000 in 2023. It would determine immigration levels beyond that year in conjunction with the province’s 17 regions in a bid to get more newcomers to locate outside the greater Montreal area.

The far-left Québec Solidaire has adopted the most ambitious immigration targets of all the parties, promising to welcome up to 80,000 permanent residents to the province annually. That would still not be enough for Quebec’s population growth to keep pace with the rest of Canada, but the figure clearly sets QS apart as the most unabashedly pro-immigration party in this election campaign.

When the CAQ leader challenged QS co-spokesperson (and de facto leader) Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois to explain how his party would slow the decline of French in Quebec with such high immigration levels, he responded with a zinger: “The difference between Mr. Legault and me is that he points fingers and I open my arms.”

Source: Opinion: In Quebec, immigration takes centre stage again on the campaign trail

ICYMI: Yakabuski: Can Canada handle its coming population boom?

Valid question. Alternative question: Is the coming population boom good for Canada and Canadians?

The latest projections from Statistics Canada show that Canada’s population is poised to grow much faster over the next two decades than the federal agency forecast just three years ago, suggesting any downturn in the country’s housing market is likely to be short-lived.

Indeed, the revised Statscan figures released last week underscore the need for policy makers to clear the way for more housing and infrastructure projects now to accommodate a fast-growing national population that is projected to increase by around 10 million people by 2043.

Statscan normally updates its population projections every five years. But the agency undertook a “necessary” revision of its 2019 projections this year “to reflect recent developments in Canadian demographics,” including the pandemic and Ottawa’s move to increase immigration targets. While the longer-term impact of the pandemic on population growth is expected to be “rather imperceptible,” the opposite is true for the higher immigration levels.

In February, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government announced plans to boost immigration levels “to help the Canadian economy recover and to fuel post-pandemic growth,” following a sharp drop in the number of newcomers arriving in Canada in 2020. Immigration rebounded in 2021, with a record 405,332 new permanent residents arriving here. And Canada is set to welcome about 432,000 new permanent residents this year, 447,000 in 2023 and 451,000 in 2024.

National Bank of Canada economists Matthieu Arseneau and Alexandra Ducharme noted that Canada’s population will increase by one million more people by 2032 than Statscan previously projected. Almost all of that extra growth will occur among those aged between 25 and 54 years old – an age cohort that is “crucial to the resilience of consumption and real estate.”

Royal Bank of Canada economists Robert Hogue and Carrie Freestone came to a similar conclusion even before the release of Statscan’s updated population projections. In a mid-August report, they projected that Canada will count 730,000 more households by 2024 than it had in 2021, as the country welcomes more than 1.3 million new immigrants.

“This surge, combined with shrinking household sizes, will strengthen demand for housing (whether owned or rented) and act as a powerful counter to sliding sales and prices – eventually putting a floor under the correction,” they wrote.

The updated Statscan projections highlight the urgency for policy makers to plan for what is expected to be the highest population growth among the Group of Seven countries over the next two decades and beyond. Based on the federal agency’s medium-growth scenario, Canada’s population is projected to grow to 47.8 million in 2043 from 38.2 million in 2021.

Ontario is expected to add more than four million new residents over the next 20 years, with its population rising to 19 million from 14.8 million. Canada’s most populous province will see its share of the national population increase to 39.8 per cent from 38.8 per cent.

Even so, Ontario’s 28-per-cent population growth over the next two decades is expected to pale compared with a 46-per-cent surge in Alberta, which will see its population grow to 6.5 million by 2043 from 4.4 million. Albertans will account for about 13.5 per cent of Canada’s population in 2043, up from 11.6 per cent in 2021.

However, Quebec’s share of the Canada’s population is set to fall below 20 per cent for the first time, as the province (which chooses its own economic immigrants) accepts proportionally fewer newcomers than the rest of the country. From 22.5 per cent of Canada’s population in 2021, Quebec will see its share decline to 19.8 per cent by 2043. Quebec’s overall population will grow by less than 10 per cent over the same period, to 9.4 million.

The Atlantic provinces will benefit from interprovincial migration levels that will be higher than those forecast before the pandemic, but not enough to reverse a decline in the region’s share of the national population. Newfoundland and Labrador’s population will shrink outright.

Ottawa’s higher immigration targets will on their own not be enough to ease the country’s labour shortage, as more and more Canadians retire in coming years. Even more aggressive immigration levels would be needed to reverse the aging trend that will see the share of the population over 65 increase steadily over the next two decades to 23.1 per cent in 2043 from 18.5 per cent in 2021.

The average age of Canadians, which increased from 27.3 years in 1921 to 41.7 years in 2021, will rise further to 44.1 years by 2043. And while about 871,000 were over 85 in 2021, their ranks will swell to more than 2.2 million by 2043.

Still, Canada’s population projections tell a rather enviable story compared with many European countries, where population aging is occurring at a much faster rate amid lower immigration levels. The question is whether policy makers here can move fast enough to prepare the country for its coming population boom.

Source: Can Canada handle its coming population boom?

Yakabuski: Official bilingualism is officially dead in Canada

Overly dramatic header but as we see in initial reactions in Quebec, recent action/inaction by the federal government, and the ever increasing gap between immigration to English Canada compared to Quebec, the trendline is not encouraging:

Statistics Canada surely did not time the release of language data from the 2021 Census to coincide with the launch of an election campaign in Quebec. But its publication of findings that confirm the decline of French within the province and across Canada are sure to light a fuse on the campaign trail as Premier François Legault calls for Ottawa to cede more powers to Quebec.

Neither did the federal agency likely consider the optics of releasing its report on the heels of the Aug. 15 Fête nationale de l’Acadie, the annual celebration of francophones in Atlantic Canada that marks the 1755 expulsion of thousands of their ancestors from the region by the British. Many ended up in Louisiana, where the French-language is today spoken by only a tiny minority of their descendants.

In May, as he revealed plans to seek full control over immigration policy if his Coalition Avenir Québec wins the Oct. 3 election, Mr. Legault warned that Quebec runs the risk of becoming another Louisiana without the ability to choose its own immigrants, including those who come to Quebec through the federal family reunification program. “It is a question of survival for our nation,” he said then.

Statistics Canada’s Wednesday report, showing that more newcomers to Quebec are using English as their first official language, will only serve to buttress Mr. Legault’s argument. The proportion of Quebeckers who primarily spoke English rose to 13 per cent in 2021 from 12 per cent in 2016, topping the one-million mark for the first time. The share who spoke predominantly French at home fell to 77.5 per cent from 79 per cent, despite extensive government efforts to “francize” new immigrants.

More than 70 per cent of Quebeckers who speak English as their first official language live on the Island of Montreal or in the suburban Montérégie region. The concentration of English speakers in and around the Quebec metropolis has long created linguistic tensions. Protecting Montreal’s “French face” is seen as imperative by most francophone Quebeckers, but many allophone newcomers to the city still gravitate toward English, sometimes even after attending French public schools.

And as Montreal goes, many fear, so goes the province. Which is why Bill 96 – the law adopted by Mr. Legault’s government in June that caps enrolment in English-language junior colleges among dozens of other measures aimed at protecting French – is seen by many francophones as a strict minimum.

Across Canada, French has been on the decline for decades despite Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s government adoption of the Official Languages Act in 1969. In 1971, French was the first official language spoken by 27.2 per cent of Canadians. By 2016, the proportion had declined to 22.2 per cent. In 2021, it fell again to 21.4 per cent. Where will it stand in 2026? You don’t need a PhD to figure it out.

The dream of a bilingual Canada d’un océan à l’autre may never have been more than that. But the reduction of French to folkloric status everywhere outside Quebec and in pockets of New Brunswick and Northern Ontario is the writing on the wall. Between 2016 and 2021, the proportion of the population speaking French at home declined in every region of the country except Yukon, where it rose to 2.6 per cent from 2.4 per cent. In New Brunswick, Canada’s only officially bilingual province, the share speaking French at home fell to 26.4 per cent from 28 per cent.

It may be fashionable among English-Canadian elites to enrol their kids in French immersion classes. But anemic rates of bilingualism hors Quebec and New Brunswick speak for themselves. Outside Quebec, Canadians who claimed an ability to conduct a conversation in both official languages dropped to 9.5 per cent from 9.8 per cent and down from a peak of 10.1 per cent two decades ago.

Even the federal public service, which once aspired to set an example, no longer prioritizes Canada’s official languages equally. In May, a Radio-Canada report showed that francophones are underrepresented in the upper echelons of the federal bureaucracy. Now, there is a push to waive French-English bilingualism requirements if applicants speak an Indigenous language or aspire to.

Removing barriers to career advancement faced by Indigenous people in Canada is a legitimate objective. But francophones argue it should not mean the diminution of the status of French within the public service. They worry that the appointment of Mary Simon as Governor-General, despite her inability to speak French, paves the way for more such nominations. They are not wrong to worry.

The latest census figures will exacerbate feelings of linguistic insecurity among francophone Quebeckers in particular. There will be consequences. We may witness a few of them on the campaign trail.

Source: Official bilingualism is officially dead in Canada