No cuts to immigration coming as Canada holds goal for 500K per year

Click to play video: 'Canadian government details ‘improved’ immigration system in response to public demand'
Canadian government details ‘improved’ immigration system in response to public demand
WATCH ABOVE: Canadian government details 'improved' immigration system in response to public demand – Oct 31, 2023

Canada will not cut immigration levels and plans to hold its target of annual newcomers steady at 500,00 people starting in 2026, according to plans tabled in Parliament by Immigration Minister Marc Miller on Wednesday.

The Immigration Levels Plan sets guidelines and targets for how many permanent residents Canada plans to welcome under economic, humanitarian and family reunification streams.

The latest plan maintains previously-set targets of welcoming 485,000 new permanent residents in 2024 and 500,000 new permanent residents for 2025. The number will stay at 500,000 in 2026 and “stabilize,” which Miller said is about “allowing time for successful integration” as well as “sustainable population growth.”

“These immigration levels allow us to bring in the skills and talent we need to fill the labour gaps and ensure Canada’s economic prosperity, help families reunite and remain a leader in refugee resettlement,” Miller told reporters in Ottawa after the plan was tabled.

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The new targets come as a growing number of Canadians appear to feel immigration to Canada is too high, spurred by worry about the cost-of-living crisis, according to a new survey from the Environics Institute and echoing polling done for Global News earlier in the month by Ipsos.

The Environics survey suggests that 44 per cent of Canadians agree with the statement that “overall, there’s too much immigration to Canada” compared with 51 per cent who disagree.

Click to play video: 'Fewer Canadians supporting Canada’s immigration levels: poll'
Fewer Canadians supporting Canada’s immigration levels: poll

This view of immigration marked a significant shift from the results last year, when only 27 per cent said there was too much immigration, and a record high of 69 per cent of people disagreed.

Miller said stabilizing immigration levels will allow governments to “take stock” and make sure labour shortages — particularly in construction — are addressed, along with housing and health-care needs for those new arrivals.

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“What Canadians have been telling us, essentially, is to get our acts together — whether it’s the federal government, provincial governments or municipal governments — and be a little more coordinated in the way we welcome immigration in various categories,” he said.

“This has been a huge debate in Canada. The eyes of Canadians are more intensely focused on immigration. They’re not xenophobic, but they’re asking us to get a little more organized.”

Increasing the number of new permanent residents doesn’t create a direct proportional demand for housing, Miller said. The intention in stabilizing the target for 2026 is to take the time to understand what the actual impact is.

“We’re going to have to take the next year and dive into some of the more microeconomic forces that are driving the sentiment that Canadians are expressing to us,” he said.

Asked why the government isn’t stabilizing now at 485,000 annual arrivals instead of waiting until 2026 when the target is half a million, Miller said there is no “sufficient, fact-based evidence” that it would make a difference in a “very, very complex situation.”

“If you spread 15,000 people across the country, it’s really a rounding error,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Canada’s immigration minister says no cap on international students – for now'
Canada’s immigration minister says no cap on international students – for now

Miller, when asked earlier in the week about whether he could consider slashing immigration targets amid a nationwide housing crisis, told reporters, “(It) doesn’t make sense to drop the numbers knowing what I know.”

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“What I hear from industry is need for specialized workers. People clearly saying immigration needs to be more organized and structured,” he continued.

On Tuesday, Miller released the Strategic Immigration Review report in Ottawa, which said Canada’s immigration strategy over the next few years will be to focus on aligning immigration policy with the country’s labour needs.

The strategic review, which lays out a roadmap for Canada’s immigration strategy, said Canada needed to attract global talent across fields to fill its labour shortage. It outlined a need to “create the new role of a Chief International Talent Officer (CITO) to align Canada’s immigration policies with a long-term skills and labour strategy.”

The CITO will be responsible for assessing what skills the Canadian economy will need in the future and ensuring that immigration strategy aligns with those needs.

It said that Canada must focus on bringing “workers to Canada who can help alleviate social pressures in key areas like housing and health care, using dedicated Category-Based Selection draws in Express Entry.”

Last week, Miller told Global News that he was not planning on capping the intake of international students into Canada, saying it would be like “doing surgery with a hammer.”

Instead, he announced several reforms to the international student program to stop instances of fraud and said he wants to take a year to work with provinces on the matter — but that the idea of a cap could be one to revisit if those efforts fail to make a difference.

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—With files from the Canadian Press

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