Martin Collacott. Immigration is not the key
Martin Collacott, Citizen Special
Published: Thursday, September 25, 2008
In taking issue with James Bissett's concerns about current immigration policy, many of the assertions made by Anne Golden in an op-ed this week ("We do need many more immigrants," Sept. 22) are problematic to say the least.
She claims there is no evidence immigration pushes down wages for Canadian workers. But this is hardly consistent with last year's Statistics Canada study which concluded that immigration played a role in the seven-per-cent drop in real weekly wages experienced by workers with more than a university undergraduate degree in Canada between 1980 and 2000.
Some of Ms. Golden's statistics are also open to question. Her assertion that, "in 2006, 55 per cent of the principal applicant immigrants to Canada (138,257 persons in all) were admitted under the economic class of immigration" is not, in fact, correct. The figure of 138,257 is the total number admitted in the economic class and, of these, only 57,275 were principal applicants. Immigrants who were fully selected on the basis of their qualifications under the points system (skilled immigrants -- principal applicants), moreover, comprised only 17.5 per cent of the 251,643 immigrants admitted in 2006.
Don Drummond, chief economist of the Toronto Dominion Bank, notes that when business leaders tout immigration as the key to Canada's economic success they are doing so on the basis of information at least 25 years out of date.
According to Mr. Drummond, because of their weak economic performance, recent immigrants are "pulling the economy down." Such a conclusion is entirely consistent with Mr. Bissett's contention that current immigration programs are extremely costly for Canadians rather than beneficial.
The fact is, however, that our prosperity does not depend on labour force growth or population increases but on sound economic policies that promote continued increases in productivity and effective use of our existing labour force. On the latter point, renowned economist and labour market specialist Prof. Alan G. Green of Queen's University has concluded that Canada now has the educational facilities to meet our domestic needs for skilled workers in all but extreme circumstances and that large inflows of skilled workers from abroad will have the effect of discouraging Canadians from acquiring the skills needed in the labour market.
In the circumstances, we should be concentrating on making the best use of existing manpower resources in the country by upgrading the skills of Canadians, retraining the many thousands who have recently lost their jobs and encouraging new entrants to join the workforce -- not on continued mass immigration as proposed by Anne Golden.
I have to hand it to the Ottawa Citizen. It seems to be one of the few newspapers in the country that is willing to play watchdog to Canada's immigration system and offer balanced opinion on the matter.
It's disappointing the Toronto Star is unwilling to do the same since immigration has affected the city of Toronto more so than anywhere else in the country. It seems our moral and intellectual superiors on the Toronto Star editorial board are more concerned about selling ethnic audiences to advertisers than it is with encouraging a lively and democratic debate concerning immigration and Canada's demographic future. After all, the newspaper feels that it plays an important role in the democratic process by informing (and indoctrinating) the citizenry, making sure they don't harbour opinions that may hurt profits.