Immigration for Growth
Canada has the world’s best immigration system for three simple reasons. First, we select people on merit. Second, by intensive reform we have made our programmes less vulnerable to fraud, abuse and irregular migration. Third, a strong and growing Canadian economy has ensured newcomers find jobs relatively quickly – a key driver of successful integration.
The current percentage of the Canadian population not born in this country is just over 20% -- lower than in other advanced economies such as Australia, New Zealand, Israel or Switzerland but higher than in the US, UK, France and most EU member states. That said, it has been over forty years since Canada accepted immigration equivalent to one percent of its population, which today would represent 360,000 new immigrants.
Since the early 1990s the top driver of Canadian population growth has been immigration. Without the addition of young immigrants, Canada will face a growing demographic crisis that is already acute in many advanced economies which lack economic immigration strategies. With a dwindling ratio of working to retired persons, this demographic pressure could over time render our health care and other social programmes unaffordable, undermining our quality of life.
So long as Canada retains sound economic fundamentals, attracts business investment and increases its exports, there will be a strong case for merit-based economic immigration. In fact, Canada’s ability to welcome new talent as permanent residents and citizens is itself a comparative advantage, spurring foreign direct investment and company formation in Canada. Global companies are attracted by Canada’s openness and stability.
From 2006 to 2016, the population of Canada grew by approximately 3.5 million – mostly as a result of immigration which averaged 265,000 per year over that decade. Immigration levels of up to 400,000 per year, if concentrated on young immigrants with the skills to succeed in Canada’s new economy, could increase the population by up to five million persons per decade, making our population younger and more demographically balanced. On this trajectory, Canada would have a population of 50 million by 2050.
Higher immigration levels could only be justified if Canada’s prosperity is assured by low taxes, higher rates of business investment, commercialized private sector inventions, and growing exports to Asia, Europe and beyond. There is no point in welcoming large numbers of newcomers to a country where job creation is stagnating, deficits and debt levels are high, and new taxes choke off both new investment and small business success.
Economic immigration must also be tied to continuing efforts to ensure newcomers enter the job market quickly; receive targeted language and skills training; settle successfully in communities that are ready to welcome them; arrive with job offers from employers unable to find the talent they need in Canada; and have recognized Canadian qualifications before selection. We all have an interest in ensuring newcomers establish themselves quickly, succeed in the workplace and integrate well with their families into Canadian life.
When Canada last accepted immigration on a level equal to one percent or more of its population (in 1974, 1967, 1966 and before 1958), natural increase per year (the number of live births per annum minus deaths) was over 200,000 persons. Today natural increase is 140,000 and falling. In just over a decade, it is projected to be below 70,000. If we wish to see Canada grow, to unlock our potential as a country, we need strong and successful immigration. To be a New Canada of youthful entrepreneurship, with strong growth rooted in existing industries as well as growing deep tech sectors of the new economy, we need to target the best global talent on an unprecedented scale.
As Prime Minister of a new Conservative government I would:
(i) ensure all economic immigration programmes, including the Caregiver Programme, are delivered through Express Entry, with a 3-month processing standard;
(ii) make the Canadian Experience Class (targeting young people with Canadian degrees or diplomas and/or Canadian work experience) the largest economic programme, with a minimum level of 50,000 persons per year;
(iii) require all provinces and territories to run their Provincial and Territorial Nominee Programmes (PNP) through Express Entry;
(iv) launch the Global Talent Class, an economic immigration programme targeting skills and experience in high demand in Canada and other advanced economies;
(v) recruit (through Express Entry) 1,000 immigrant investors per year, with no language requirement, contributing $1 million each to fund a $1 billion per year contribution to the public-private partnership for childcare (for five years);
(vi) deliver all immigration services online, replacing counterfoils with electronic visitor visas, work and study permits with fraud-proof digital security, while meeting a 48-hour worldwide processing standard for visas, including for tourists;
(vii) ensure no Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIA) are granted when Canadians are available to do the job, but process LMIAs within seven days;
(viii) open the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Programme to include meat-cutting/packing, seafood processing facilities and seasonal tourism businesses, when Canadians are not available to do the job;
(ix) implement full labour mobility, with open work permits on demand, for citizens of the US, UK, France, Australia, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and selected other EU member states, while ensuring reciprocal benefit by continuous evaluation;
(x) double the number of Canadian Border Services Agency officers serving abroad, while restoring the Immigration Control Officer stream, to counter human smuggling and trafficking, forced marriage and marriage fraud, document fraud, organized crime, narcotics trafficking and terrorism;
(xi) in consultation with the entire education sector, target 400,000 new international students per year starting in 2020, rising to 500,000 by 2023;
(xii) require economic immigrants to have credentials recognized in Canada before they are selected in Express Entry;
(xiii) expand pre-arrival orientation to include all classes of immigrants and focus on the Canadian tax system, Criminal Code, penalties for domestic violence or fraud, the status and protection of women, law, ethics and workplace codes of conduct;
(xiv) focus the settlement network on building networks with employers and sectors employing immigrants, as well as language training and planning for recruitment and settlement with provinces, territories and municipalities;
(xv) centralize processing of immigrants in Canada in order to focus the global network of immigration officers on proactive recruitment of top students, entrepreneurs, talented global innovators, researchers and investors, particularly for immigrant investor programmes and the Global Talent Class, as well as prevention of fraud and irregular migration;
(xvi) to meet the needs of minority French language communities outside Quebec, ensure 5% (up to 20,000) francophone immigrants per year in all classes, supported by the Francophone Immigration Network across Canada;
(xvii) improve the timely collection and publication of statistics for immigration, including out-migration of citizens and immigrants; and
(xviii) lead work at the United Nations, the World Bank and the OECD to establish global best practices for selection, settlement, integration and retention of economic immigrants and their families.