Today's discussion:

Canada’s hard-fought immigration consensus is crumbling before our eyes

Recent polling finds that 53 percent of Canadians want to accept fewer immigrants into Canada and 55 percent believe there are too many international students. A growing number of Canadians, it seems, now believe there is too much immigration for the population to properly integrate. 

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Paul Attics

/- If the New Right has demonstrated anything, it is that a mere focus on economic utility is no longer enough for a compelling policy agenda. -/

However, it should be a multi-partisan prerequisite that the levels of incoming fellow human beings (via immigration, temp workers, students, refugees) are at least not a threat to ongoing economic prosperity. Too many will break (are breaking) our prosperous standard of living for all, including newly arrived and/or temporary.

The tremendous benefits of welcoming an appropriate number of fellow human beings via immigration, temp workers, students, or refugees should also be celebrated. Determining the ‘appropriate number’ should be an ongoing, dispassionate, and non-partisan analysis of capacities (infrastructure and cultural) and requirements (demographics, labor, global refugee situations) with short, medium, and long-term timeframes duly considered.

This should not be a political rhetoric battle.

10th April 2024 at 8:29 am
Paul Attics

Blaming immigrants for levels of immigration that are too high, is like blaming the water in a bathtub that is overflowing. The controller of the tap (Federal government) should get most of the blame. The immigrants should get none of it.

10th April 2024 at 8:07 am

Politicians lamenting the fraying consensus on immigration rarely say why that consensus is desirable in the first place. There are some obvious benefits to Canadians openness to immigration if it’s good for the economy. (But, countries are not just economies either.) However, whether particular immigration policy is good for the economy is an empirical question, not a belief that it’s obvious we should care about as a moral goalpost.

An opposition to population growth as an economic strategy is not necessarily an opposition to immigration either. Compare to Japan tolerating significant demographic collapse over much immigration, or pro-natalist sentiment elsewhere that is explicitly about reducing the number of immigrants needed. The level of immigration required to even stabilize the population with very low birthrates might eventually cause concerns about cultural integration in the future, but it’s not obvious that’s what happening today.

10th April 2024 at 8:57 am
Gordon Edwards

I find the author overstates his case by conflating support for current levels of immigration with support for immigration. One can decide that two pieces of pie with dinner is too much without being anti-dessert. He does acknowledge this briefly with the admission that 72% percent of Canadians still believe that immigrants play a key role in growing Canada’s population. But that one footnote is easy to miss in the flow of the essay.

However, I do think the immigration consensus is at risk. I believe it was Andrew Coyne who frequently raised this concern when Roxham Road was the site of daily illegal border crossings. People won’t focus on an issue if they trust the institution to deal with it, but mismanagement diminishes that trust.

Since the 90s I’d say the general consensus has accepted immigration (and importantly immigrants). In fact, the Overton Window has been effectively closed on the subject. Challenging immigration policy has been seen in the media as dangerously close to racism and thus most politicians have tread carefully. So I see the recent discussion of immigration levels as a positive. Having a debate about issues impacting the future of the country should be possible.

The economic issues should be – in theory – straightforward. Some will of course allege racism etc at any challenge to current policy; “activists have to activate”. But this can be a data driven discussion of pros, cons, and trade-offs. These discussions have even been getting into the MSM recently. However I’ve noticed that commentators typically follow any criticism of government immigration policy with verbal genuflections to ward off evil spirits. Old habits die hard.

The more difficult discussion would be about cultural integration. But I think that too is necessary. Any such discussion challenges multiculturalism orthodoxy. It also requires people to have a confident vision of what it means to be Canadian. Something which seems to be sadly lacking these days.

Canada (and the USA, perhaps a few others) is well suited to a pro-immigration culture. We are at heart a country formed by immigration in contrast to most countries/societies on the planet where ethnicity and historical ties define national identity. Yes, a discussion about sustainable immigration levels or integrating immigrants will attract some who are motivated by racism or xenophobia. But that doesn’t mean such discussions shouldn’t occur. If we fail to have those discussions and debates, I am concerned that the immigration consensus will, in fact, crumble.

10th April 2024 at 12:17 pm
Michael B

I have little problem with the invited immigration into Canada. They’ve at least gone through a visa, refugee or immigration process.
My issue is with asylum claimants who not only compete for low paying jobs, subsidised housing, healthcare and educational resources, but also social welfare benefit payments. The most serious impacts fall on our poorest.
In Jan. & Feb. of this year 31,255 asylum claims were reported. There were a total of 143,785 in 2023 and 91,730 in 2022. A total over the past couple of years of 266,770. Given the major increases each year the probability is we’ll have a record number of uninvited migrants in 2024, perhaps more than 180,000.
These are the numbers provided by the IRCC on their web page titled, ” Asylum Claimants – Monthly IRCC Updates”. They don’t make it easy. You have to scroll down to find the yearly reports, click on “Explore” against the yearly report in the appropriate language, then click “Go to resource”. Otherwise you’ll get a blank page. The reports date back to 2011 when the total was 25,315. In 2013 it was 10,365.

10th April 2024 at 10:52 am
Ray Howarth

Your points on uninvited migrants ring true to me and many others that I know. We enthusiastically welcome those that play by the rules but generally feel that those that don’t play by the rules should not be able to game the system once they get here.

Don’t let them in to wander around, out and about. Lock them down and send them back, forthwith.

10th April 2024 at 3:47 pm
Kim Morton

Has there ever actually been consensus on immigration? That probably depends on what circles you run in. For the rich that want to keep the price of hired help low, massive immigration is a good thing. For the great unwashed, perhaps not so much. And while few are totally set against immigration, there are limits. Most of us are not more than two generations from being immigrants on at least one side of the family, so it is not like we are strangers to it.
The sheer volume of immigrants, and the skill sets they bring, in recent years has many rightfully concerned. The lack of services, like doctors, which were already slim, are now spread much thinner. Then there is the massive cost of infrastructure required to support rapidly growing communities, and water supplies needed for all the extra people. All this is financed through the taxes of long-established residents who are not suddenly needing extra services.
Then there is the problem of National Identity. How do we promote a Canadian Identity and Multi Culti at the same time? Or is our identity going to be a mass of different, and sometimes conflicting identities all bunched up in one place?
Here on Vancouver Island, we have the double whammy of idle rich from elsewhere driving up housing prices and demanding we change how we live and play so they can have the retirement lifestyle they want.

10th April 2024 at 10:29 am

The notion that Canada has a ‘hard-fought’ immigration consensus is difficult to square with the historical lack of any obvious fighting, although has been extensive elite coaching about it being a really really great idea. For a frightening view of the future think about the Century Initiative goal of “Growing our population to 100 million by 2100”. With the GTA at 33.5 million according to Wikipedia.

The Fall 2023 report from Environics & the Century Initiative found that Canadians were suddenly very concerned about inflation and affordable housing while immigration was a low concern. I think Canadians subsequently connected affordable housing and large immigration, rejected the arm waving that it was a supply problem, and identified immigration as the obvious demand-side culprit. The fear for the ‘consensus’ is they also connect immigration to other major concerns such as health care i.e. wait times, family doctors, MRI, ….

The current defense of the ‘consensus’ is to try smearing the immigration questions as being anti-multicultural aka racist. It’s not. Poorer Canadians are trying to figure out whether immigration is improving their lifes.

10th April 2024 at 3:39 pm

Even the federal government isn’t pretending that Canadians can have the quality of housing that was previously normally with this level of population growth (or at least not while also meeting environmental goals). It’s one thing if it were temporary growing pains, but another when the purported ‘solution’ is to have less space and supposedly like it. 60% of new housing starts are already apartments, and it’s easy to see why people would sour on being told there is no space for them to have a real house while there is space to triple the population.

10th April 2024 at 4:45 pm
Brian Mellor

Irresponsibly thought-out and implemented immigration has led to excessive housing costs. Homelessness has tripled, housing costs have tripled, inequality has tripled, foodbank usage has tripled, Auto thefts have tripled, break and enters have tripled, assaults have tripled, shootings have tripled, people without doctors have tripled, wait time in hospitals have tripled, lack of teachers in schools have tripled. Now the Carbon Tax has added hundreds of dollars to the cost of building a home. Carbon tax on cement, bricks, Siding, appliances, water heaters, furnaces, A/Cs, sump pumps, windows, doors, digging holes, delivering materials, sewer pipes, plumbing, wiring, curbs, sidewalks, paving roads as well as adding CO2. Affordability has just gotten worse.

10th April 2024 at 1:10 pm