Back then such high immigration numbers and the assumed benefits were questionable. It is even more questionable in the current economic uncertainty the nation and the world faces. If Canada's mass immigration system was showing signs of dysfunction even in alleged boom times what consequences will it bring to Canada and Canadians in this economic downturn? Some news releases paint an even dire picture then we may have imagined and should force the government to drastically reduce the immigration targets if not to halt it altogether for the sake of Canadians and future generations.
As the month of March concluded another 61,300 jobs were lost pushing the national total to 357,000 jobs lost since the downturn began in October of 2008. Most of the jobs lost were full time positions primarily in "manufacturing, finance, insurance, real estate and leasing, construction and natural resources” causing the official national unemployment rate to increase to 8%, "the worst in seven years". (The official Ontario unemployment rate is 8.7% and Toronto's is 8.8%). We must keep in mind that the official unemployment figures are misleading. It is actually higher then is stated because it doesn't include people who have given up looking for work and have withdrawn from the labour market. Adding other factors like temp work or contract work and part time work a more realistic unemployment figure is almost double the official rate.
According to the Conference Board of Canada the nation's unemployment rate will peak at 9.5% in 2010.
The loss of so many full time jobs has created, according this Toronto Star headline, a "nation of part-timers".
Can western Canada still serve as an excuse to maintain high immigration levels? Alberta doesn't seem to at the moment. Of course there's still Saskatchewan with its 6,500+ unfilled jobs. This is good news for the 300,000 plus full time jobs seekers out there. However TD Economics issued this caveat:
"The province's near-term economic and fiscal performance is clearly facing far greater challenges than we had anticipated in the 2008 study," the report states, noting the severe global recession. "For a small, open and resource-based economy such as Saskatchewan, such a negative turn in fortunes will prove to be a major economic setback."
In 2007, the province's GDP grew a whopping 11 per cent, nearly double the 5.7 per cent in the rest of the country. Saskatchewan anticipates growth in 2008 of about 14 per cent.
The situation is not as rosy now – there have been about 3,000 layoffs, but even with an expected 1 per cent growth this year, Saskatchewan will trail only Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.
The Toronto Star, in an opinion piece by Carol Goar, had this to say:
Three things make Ed Clark, chief executive of TD Bank Financial Group, a business leader worth listening to.
He says what he thinks regardless of whose feathers he ruffles. He's not afraid to swim against the current. And he acts on his principles.
He offered students and corporate leaders his take on the economic outlook, which differs sharply from Prime Minister Stephen Harper's, plus his perspective on the partnership between Canada and the United States in the lean years ahead.
Clark began by shooting down the notion that Canadians can look forward to a recovery next year. What they will see, he predicted, is a temporary uptick in economic activity caused by the massive sums governments are spending. But that will be followed by 30 years of very slow growth and persistent unemployment.
"We are going into a Great Recession," he said.
Clark does not buy the argument that last fall's meltdown caught political leaders off-guard. There had been mounting evidence since 2000 that North America was enjoying a false boom, he said. By 2006, as mortgages started defaulting in the U.S., the danger signals were unmistakable. "We knew this was going to blow."
Yet those in charge assured everyone "as long as the music is playing, we ought to all keep dancing."
I don't want to believe him. Who does? It is much preferable to accept the rosy forecasts that this recession will be short lived. But I don't know. It seems for too long Canadians have been living a fantasy life built on credit and now the creditors have come to collect. The housing boom in Ontario coupled with the home reno fad was built on speculation and credit and sold to people who I am no too certain can afford their houses. As real estate agents have been banking their SUV payments on an infusion of immigrants into the housing market I wonder what jobs they did to support the mortgage and what jobs will they have now to maintain the payments.
If his prediction is true and that Canada is facing a long 30 year recovery I see no excuse now, more than ever, to maintain high immigration levels. Even if he is wrong, and I hope he is, it is better to err on the side of caution then to continuously inject people into the Canadian labour market. To do so is to invite racism, xenophiobia, poverty, and crime.
Now is the time to put Canadians first and if it means an moratorium on immigration then so be it. If not then the consequence may be social discord.