Canada is a country that covers vast amounts of land thanks in part to the migration of many people who settled its far reaches. There have been times when increases to immigration have been required for the building of the country. However, that is no longer the case. The country has been surveyed, and the infrastructure and organizations to run society have been put in place.

The problems facing Canadians today are mainly aspects of financial security such as wage growth, cost of living, the ability to secure employment and the opportunity to start a family and have children. Additional concerns include environmental and demographic sustainability, questions of social cohesion and, for politically conservative people, electoral success.

Although it has been dictated by the media and post-secondary education that migration is the sacrosanct institution of Canadian identity, the public support for reducing migration rates has been accelerating among regular Canadians. Nearly two-thirds of all Canadians believe that it is time to reduce immigration levels, as do four-fifths of Conservative voters.

Those who benefit the most from large-scale migration are principally large business owners who desire to have an ever-increasing pool of labour from which to draw. Of course, the basic law of supply and demand dictates that this flood of workers must depress wages, which is a perilous path to tread when the majority of Canadians are currently living paycheque to paycheque.

With the leadership contest for the Conservative Party of Canada concluding in the coming months, many conservatives in the country are examining their values and comparing them with the policies of the candidates, and the party one of them will eventually lead. As such, it is time for a data-driven look into the topic of migration into Canada - particularly as seen from the vantage of a Conservative Party seeking to win election.

The State of Canada's Migration Policy


Unprecedented Rate of Migration

In 2019, Canada accepted 313,580 immigrants. Through Canada’s Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) program, 613,200 migrants were admitted in 2016. Canada has one of the highest net migration rates in the world, well above the vast majority of developed countries. This consistent rate of migration is unprecedented in Canadian history, and poses many significant challenges.

  • Canada’s foreign born population is 22% of the total population. [1]
  • Canada’s projected net migration rate between 2015 - 2020 is 6.6 per 1000 inhabitants according to the United Nations. [2]  
  • The United States has a net migration rate of 3.9, and the United Kingdom 2.5, per 1000. [3]

Canadians' Opinion on Migration

Opinion polling about the current immigration rate in Canada leans negative, especially among conservatives. In addition, opinion about temporary foreign workers is even more unfavourable. Immigration reduction was a significant, yet unexploited, wedge issue during the 2019 Federal Election.

  • 63% of Canadians agree that the government should prioritize limiting immigration levels because the country might be reaching a limit in its ability to integrate them. [4]
  • 81% of Conservatives who responded were in favour of limiting immigration, as were 57% of Greens, 41% of Liberals, and 44% of New Democrats. [5]
  • A total of 44% of respondents said they believe Canada welcomes too many immigrants, and 45% said the same of refugees. Meanwhile, 37% said they believe Canada welcomes "enough" immigrants and only 11% said Canada welcomes too few immigrants and refugees. [6]
  • Almost three quarters of Canadians oppose (45%) or somewhat oppose (29%) allowing temporary foreign workers into Canada while Canadians qualified for those same jobs are looking for work. [7]
  • Support for immigration among Bloc Québécois voters is the second lowest among the main political parties. 47% want immigration reduced, 46% think the rate is fine, and 2% think it should be increased. [8]
  • During the election 14% of the Canadian public reported that immigration was among their top three policy priorities, above deficit spending, corruption and social inequality. [9]

The Migration Lobby

Canadian and multinational business are the most adamant proponents of migration and open borders. Only speculation and whistleblowing can answer the extent and impact of their lobbying, as most of it is likely done off the record through legal loopholes. However, what information that is available indicates a decisive interest of businesses to financially sway the government in return for higher migration rates.

  • The vast majority of registered organizations lobbying Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) are corporate in nature. [10]
  • During the 2019 Federal Election it was revealed that the Business Council of Canada president Goldy Hyder pressured all the major political parties to not discuss immigration. [11]
  • Goldy Hyder is also a founding executive of the Century Initiative, an organization that promotes mass immigration in order to raise Canada’s population to 100 million by the end of the 21st century. [12]

Arguments for Reducing Migration Rates


Migration and the Labour Market

The admittance of large-scale immigration and foreign workers affects Canadian workers by suppressing their wages and job opportunities. This is basic supply and demand. Because migrants tend to work for lower wages than the average native citizen, businesses hire immigrants and foreign workers instead of investing in Canadians. Though this may benefit business owners, it has negative repercussions on most Canadians.

  • As the population increases by 10% as a result of immigration, wages depress by 3-4% on average and 7% for those with postsecondary education. [13]
  • Foreign workers are not seen as a last resort by employers, but are preferred over Canadian workers. [14]
  • The cost of large-scale immigration on the labour market from 1993 - 2002 has been $30.7 billion per year. [15]
  • Survey of international research on immigration impact on labour markets:

“Four outcomes are utilized: wages, employment, labour force participation and unemployment … Most (58%) of the estimates across the four outcomes are statistically insignificant implying no effect, about 25% show a statistically significant negative impact while about 17% show a statistically significant positive impact on domestic workers”  [16]

The amount of working-aged immigrants is significant, and they are overrepresented compared to native Canadians in several major economic sectors [17]:

Increased migration rates reduces competition in the Canadian economy. When unemployment and labour supply is low, demand incentivises businesses to compete over prospective employees. When unemployment is higher, businesses have the power to pit workers against each other to compete for employment positions and labour benefits.

Migration necessarily keeps unemployment and labour supply high by providing an expanding pool of inexpensive labour, which in turn shifts the onus of economic productivity onto the worker in favour of businesses.

Adjacent to the topic of migration, there has been a consistent trend since the 1970s that has seen an depreciation of wages for workers and a proportional increase in profit shares for businesses. In other words, while the economy has grown and businesses have become more successful, the amount of money earned by Canadians has fallen short of these gains. [18]

Migration and Real Estate

Increased migration rates have inflationary effects on the real estate market for new homebuyers. Housing and rent prices have risen in major cities across the country. Native Canadians are finding it increasingly difficult to find affordable homes as a result.

  • Immigration had a negative impact on house prices of 1.7 – 2.6 per cent in neighbourhoods and market segments most favored by a now defunct investor program. [19]
  • The 2017 price of a detached Metro Vancouver home owned by a recent immigrant is 32.29%  higher than the median price of a house owned by a native-born resident. [20]
  • The 2017 price of a detached Toronto home owned by a recent immigrant is 2.20% higher than the median price of a house owned by a native-born resident. [21]
  • There is a correlation at +0.94 between immigration and rising property prices in Vancouver. Interest rates, employment, domestic Canadian migration and rental vacancy rates had negative correlation. [22]

Migration and Fertility Rates

Canada has a low fertility rate that pegs below replacement rate, and an increasingly large number of retirees. This is contributing to an imbalanced dependency ratio between those who are working and those who are not.

Policymakers look to migration to mediate the age imbalance and bolster the workforce, but it is not a permanent solution. Increased migration is only temporarily injecting workers into the economy without a long-term means to level out the dependency load. Migration is counterintuitive as it is a short-term solution that is detracting from the political will to encourage Canadians to have children.

Without increased migration pro-natal policies are necessary. Looking to Hungary and Quebec, it is clear that pro-natal social security benefits can prove to be incredibly successful.

  • The Hungarian Government’s pro-natal Family Protection Action Plan has increased the birth rate by 9.4% from 2019 to 2020. The total fertility rate has jumped from 1.4 to 1.6. [23]
  • “ … the entire institutional context of Québec compared with the rest of Canada — shorter, more accessible post-secondary education, the beginning of universally available, full-day kindergarten for five year olds, heavily subsidized daycare for younger children, more generous parental leave, and more renter protections—adds up to greater family supports and a more pro-natalist environment. Indeed, fertility in Québec has increased and has remained stable at higher levels than in the rest of Canada, and some speculate that Québec will experience a fertility rebound.” [24]
  • Quebec’s total fertility rate is 1.59 children per woman, while Ontario’s is 1.46. [25]

Canada’s population is aging, and the future liabilities of the CPP alone represent a major financial concern. A common argument for migration is that the country needs more young people to pay for these programs. However, the government itself studied this in 2006 and found that immigration will not fix this:

  • “Even a substantial increase in the number of immigrants could not stop Canada’s population aging. For example, if Canada was to admit four times as many immigrants per year, the population’s median age would still increase, from the current 38.8 to 44.1 years in 2056. This would mean an average of about one million immigrants per year for the next 50 years. Regardless, the proportion of seniors would increase from the current 12.3% to 22.3% in 2056.” [26]

This study is cited in Immigration and the Canadian Welfare State by Grubel and Grady. They further discuss the issue and show plainly that immigration can at best delay the problem of dependency ratio by a generation only if it is maintained at rates that would surely be unbearable for the country:

  • In another study, Banerjee and Robson (2009) consider what number of immigrants would be required to maintain the current 0.2 dependency ratio (there are 20 retirees who receive benefits from the taxes paid by every 100 workers). In one section of their study, they assume that future immigrants on average are only 22 years old, which is an age that would make them long-term contributors to the funds needed to finance social benefits for retirees. While it may be impossible to find enough immigrants of this age, the assumption provides a powerful insight into the magnitude of the problem of unfunded liabilities caused by the aging population and low birth rate.” [27]
  • “Tellingly, Banerjee and Robson’s calculations show that to maintain the dependency ratio at 0.2 until 2050, the annual rate of immigration would have to average about 2% of the population (it has been about 0.75% in recent years). This rate of immigration would raise Canada’s population to 139 million in 2050 and the number of immigrants would be 1.8 million that year alone. In another calculation, they assume that the selection of immigrants continues to bring in immigrants with the same age characteristics as are produced under the present system. They find that under these assumptions the maintenance of the dependency ratio would result in a population of 235 million in 2050.” [28]

Migration and Environmental Sustainability

Migrants overwhelmingly settle in urban centres, contributing to a greater demand for development. This has caused concerning levels of urban sprawl and the urbanization of the natural environment around these cities. Canada faces further losses of farmland, forests, natural sites and water resources.

  • Canada’s three largest CMAs (Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver) all lost population through internal migration between 1996 and 2001, meaning that their population growth over 1996-2001 is largely attributed to the arrival of international migrants and their roles as immigrant reception centers. [29]
  • “Population growth and immigration is a fundamental driver of urbanization and growth in urban sprawl. The Environmental Commissioner might, therefore, investigate the pros and cons of federal and provincial policies that allow other nations to enable, or even promote, unrestrained population growth which ultimately contributes to environmental destruction, resource depletion and social and economic impoverishment.” [30]
  • “Some 95,000 hectares of farmland are lost annually – 80% due to immigration.” [31]
  • “... Loss of agricultural lands around major cities has contributed to the need to import fresh food from much longer distances resulting in added transport costs, increased vehicular pollution and lower quality produce.”
  • “Increasing pressures on water resources due to industrial uses, climate change, population growth, and a general lack of capacity to manage the impacts of industrial developments on a regional basis will all have an impact on Canada’s watersheds. These stresses are likely to pose a significant challenge to the sustainability of Canada’s water resources” [32]

As Canada’s population increases, so too does its level of carbon emissions. This is because Canada is an industrialized and developed country. Migrants largely emigrate from underdeveloped countries where they consume less resources - to Canada where they consume more. Increased migration directly contributes to greater carbon emissions and resource scarcity.

  • Comparable to Canada based on their similarities as developed countries, immigrants in the United States produce an estimated four times more CO2 in the United States as they would have in their countries of origin. [33]
  • Immigration constitutes 80% of Canadian population growth and its impacts are broad and large. Mass immigration has contributed almost double the increase in Canadian carbon emissions, than the oil sands over the period 1990 to 2012. It stands as the largest driver of our emissions growth of 25% over our Kyoto target.

Migration and Electoral Politics

Immigrants, and especially visible minority groups, are decidedly more likely to vote in favour of the Liberal Party over the Conservative Party. This is consistent with other developed countries, where migrants and visible minorities tend to vote overwhelmingly for center-left political parties.

  • Of the World Values Survey sample, 74.3% (of immigrants) said that they would back the Liberals in a federal election. Furthermore, immigrants consistently supported the Liberals more than other voters, even in years when the Conservative party won the election. [34]
  • “In 2016 the Liberals won 84% of majority-immigrant ridings. There are 31 ridings with more people born outside Canada than in Canada. The Liberals won 26 of them.” [35]
  • In 2020 Canadians born outside Canada are more likely to vote Liberal (54%) over Conservative (27%) and NDP (11%), over native born Canadians: Liberal (35%), Conservative (32%), NDP (17%). [36]

Following both the 2011 Canadian federal election and the 2018 Ontario provincial election, Conservative leaders won with a majority of support from visible minority and migrant groups. However, the implication that these voting trends will remain consistent for Conservative parties is doubtful. These Conservative victories were won under exceptional circumstances, where in both cases the Liberals under performed to a considerable degree with deeply unpopular candidates and platforms.

It is not advantageous for Conservatives to support large-scale immigration, whereby new waves of Liberal voters are invited into the country to vote against Conservative aims.

Migration and Labour Performance

Migrants to Canada are having trouble integrating into the Canadian economy, and their success has dwindled compared to native Canadians. This is most visible according to their record of unemployment and wage earnings.

  • Results from the 2006 Census show that immigrants who arrived in Canada in 2004 were more than three times as likely as most Canadians to have low-incomes. Fully 34.1% of these newcomers fell into the low-income category of the Census, as compared to a rate of 9.7% for all Canadians.
  • In 2016 recent immigrants sat at an unemployment rate of 9.6%, compared to more established immigrants (6.8%) and native Canadians (5%). [37]
  • “Immigrants earn about 10% less than those born in Canada; 30 years ago the gap was less than 4%.” [38]
  • “It is not possible to admit annually as many as 250,000 immigrants who are capable of doing well in the Canadian labour market, despite 16 years of economic expansion.” [39]
  • The poor labour performance of immigrants is costing Canada $50 billion to the GDP. [40]
  • “Recent immigrants start with earnings up to 20% lower than their predecessors and have assimilated at a very modest pace in their first years in Canada” [41]

Migration and the Point System

The Canadian Express Entry program, Canada’s principal immigration point system, does not discriminate between many different levels of work experience; weighing experience with professional jobs at an equal rate to technical jobs, and management jobs. This raises concern about the skills of many admitted immigrants.

  • Skill Type 0 (zero): management jobs, such as: restaurant managers, mine managers, shore captains (fishing).
    Skill Level A: professional jobs that usually call for a degree from a university, such as: doctors, dentists, architects.
    Skill Level B: technical jobs and skilled trades that usually call for a college diploma or training as an apprentice, such as: chefs, plumbers, electricians. [42]

CONCLUSION


It is clear that large-scale migration to Canada has a variety of adverse effects on the country; this observation counters the narrative pushed by big business and the mainstream media that it provides nothing but benefits.

Contemporary migration rates have put working class Canadians in further financial trouble by contributing to wage depreciation, rising real estate costs and political apathy about the affordability of raising children. In addition, large-scale migration is unsustainable in that it harms the environment and is incapable of resolving the growing demographic burden of Canada’s low fertility rate. Furthermore, inviting more immigrants into Canada may permanently jeopardize the Conservative Party’s electoral success. Canada’s high migration rates may be irreversible as more migrants are invited into the country.

As automation and artificial intelligence become increasingly prevalent in replacing the Canadian workforce, one must question the long-term utility in importing so many low-skilled migrants into Canada. It is clear that many labour intensive jobs will be the target of automation, especially to meet the conditions of resource over-consumption and the need for intensive agricultural and resource-recycling projects in the coming decades. Further research should be done to address the burden of labour automation , as it remains an important question in the migration debate.

All of the preceding issues should be taken seriously by any hopeful minister seeking to unseat the incumbent party. The Conservative Party of Canada can be the only party serving the interests and desires of Canadians by taking a critical stance on migration, or they can fall in line with the policies of their opponents and continue to lose relevance in the country's political landscape. This summer's leadership race may play a pivotal role in determining which way the party will go.


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