A reader to this blog brought this this debate to my attention and so I'm bringing it to yours.
It is a debate between MaCleans national editor Andrew Coyne and former head of Canadian Immigration Services James Bissett over the question "Should Canada adopt a more wide-open immigration policy, or should we be more focused on targeted immigration based on Canada's market needs."
Watch the debate if you haven't already and try to do so with an open mind. With that said I have to say that James BIssett won. My "bias" may have brought me to that conclusion but if you distance yourself from the issue and watch the discussion objectively I think you will arrive at the same conclusion as well. You may not want to agree with Jame Bissett but he used one thing that Andrew Coyne didn't: the facts. Andrew Coyne was too dependent on rhetoric, speculation, and assumptions, all propelled by outdated romantic notions of immigration.
From what I gather from the debate Coyne is arguing from a libertarian position feeling that there should be no limits to immigration. Indeed, he goes so far as to say that Canadians should not be protected from mass immigration; that Canadians have no birth right to this country; to ask why should immigrants be denied what Canadians have by accident of birth. This is a libertarian mind thinking and like Coyne's PhD. in Economics it is totally impractical in the real world.
He ignores, or at least brushes off, the inconvenient fact that post 1990 immigrant cohorts are doing poorly and this is the problem. James Bissett and other immigration critics like myself are not opposed to immigration. We are opposed to the current immigration system that really didn't come to fruition until the late 1980s and early 1990s. This is why so many immigrant communities are not doing so well and why so many post 1990 immigrants are living below the poverty line. The system is broken and Canada is accepting too many immigrants particularly immigrants who have little chance in succeeding economically in the country. To be blunt, Canada has granted citizenship to people who really shouldn't be here.
Instead of addressing this problem Coyne retreats to examples that can only be fully understood in context. He correctly states that Canada at one time accepted more immigrants that it did now. Bissett acknowledges this but reminds Coyne that this was an exception to a general trend and that these people were directed to the unsettled prairies. This is unlike today where most immigrants settle in Canada's three major cities.
Coyne also uses the example of the Vietnamese boat people of the 1970s who landed in Canada and prospered. Again context is needed. The people landed in a time when Canada wasn't accepting as many immigrants as it did and was in a better position to absorb them. These boat people were not competing with a flood of new arrivals for jobs and in a time when Canada was shedding jobs.
Also, Coyne uses what I'll call the "one in a million" argument. He uses Magna founder Frank Stronach and the real estate moguls the Reichmans of Olympia and York fame as examples of immigrants who made fortunes in Canada. The fact that Coyne couldn't (or didn't) use recent examples shows the weakness of this argument but what he is saying is that by limiting immigration Canada could cheat itself out of bringing in more people like the examples given. Again, they arrived when Canada had a more manageable immigration system and Canada was in a position to absorb them.
The other thing Bissett has over Coyne is experience and it shows. Coyne, I must say, doesn't seem to know what he is talking about. He is an intelligent man and I have read some of his articles but in this debate he comes off as a misinformed fool driven by ideology and romanticism. Bissett, on the other hand, has "been there, done that" making his position more compelling.
Being a national editor to a national magazine it is understandable why Coyne would take the position that he did. It is in MaCleans magazine's financial interests, as a profit maximizing organization, to sell to as large as an audience as it can so that is can deliver this audience to advertisers which is were all media make their money.