A pro-business think tank has issued a report showing that if Canada were to shut its doors to immigrants completely, its labour force and economic growth would shrink significantly. Canada is unlikely to stop immigration, but a senior researcher with the Conference Board of Canada says that “building this scenario helps us better understand the contributions of newcomers to Canada’s economy.”
Deaths to exceed births
The report notes that if Canada stopped admitting immigrants, economic growth would slow from 1.9 per cent to an average of 1.3 per cent annually. It would experience a shrinking labour force, weak economic growth and greater challenges funding social services such as health care.
By 2034 the number of deaths in Canada is expected to exceed births and that means population growth would only come from immigration. If there were no new immigrants, almost 27 per cent of the population would be 65 years of age and over by 2040.
The report projects that increasing immigration to one per cent of Canada’s population by the early 2030s would help keep Canada’s population, labour force and economy growing at a modest rate. That would mean increasing the number of newcomers from 290,000 in 2017 to about 400,000 per year.
Actual immigration figures worry some Canadians
At the same time, The Canadian Press reports that internal government documents suggest a majority of Canadians supports current immigration levels, but the support drops when they are informed of how many newcomers actually arrive each year. Data suggest that most Canadians believe the number of immigrants arriving annually is under 150,000. When they are told that the number is more like 260,000, the number of respondents who say that is too many jumps from 23 to 32 per cent.
This suggests the government will have to walk a fine line when handling the issue of how many newcomers to admit.
Immigration a political issue in Quebec election
The province of Quebec has some independence in handling its own newcomers. There is an election coming in October 2018 and the issue of immigration promises to play a prominent role in the campaign. The leader of one of the opposition parties vying for power is already saying that immigrants would have to pass a test on Quebec values before they would be allowed to stay in the province permanently.
Such a test would focus on respect for diversity, democracy and a secular government. The issue of immigrant values has been used in past elections by parties seeking to show they are protective of the French language and culture in a mostly-English North America.