Canada will hold immigration levels steady for the seventh year in a row in 2013, but will make more room within its quota for what’s quickly become its fastest-growing category of newcomers.I caught the announcement on CBC as Jason Kenney; the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multiculturalism; was answering questions in a media scrum.
The impression I got from him was that he wanted to increase immigration levels but felt it was "irresponsible" to do so as if to imply that holding immigration levels at around a quarter of a million people for the next year wasn't irresponsible itself given the current economic climate. Why he felt it was "irresponsible" to increase numbers I cannot say exactly since I was busy at the moment and caught just a bit of the interview but I can only assume that it had to do with the state of the economy and the fact that Canadians are displaying increasing displeasure with the immigration system.
The federal government is under more pressure to demonstrate the economic benefits of immigration, as 2012 polling suggests attitudes towards immigration are cooling slightly. Internal briefing notes for Citizenship and Immigration Canada released under access to information law say there’s been a 10-percentage-point drop since 2010 – to 56 per cent – in the number of Canadians who feel that immigration has a positive impact on the economy.Canadians are right to doubt the economic benefits of mass immigration of over the past thirty years and Jason Kenney is well aware that Canadians cannot stomach more immigration.
Saying "a slightly diminished enthusiasm for immigration" and that attitudes are "somewhat tightening up" are understatements employed, I think, to downplay the broadening negative views Canadians are developing towards the immigration system. But this is probably my biases thinking for me here.
Nevertheless what's important to note here is that Canadians' alleged popular support for the mass immigration system is based on ignorance of the system itself. To repeat, according the polling information "very few Canadians realize that Canada accepts more than 250,000 newcomers as permanent residents each year." When informed of the actual numbers support dropped to between nine and fourteen percentage points on the opinion that Canada was accepting too many. One has to wonder what would be considered "the right amount" of immigrants to those who were polled? Would they still consider 150,000 an amount as "too many?" One also has to wonder how much more support for the immigration system would drop further were Canadians informed of the details of the policy, it's outcomes over the past three decades, and it's lasting effects.
Canadians do not fully appreciate the long-term impact the immigration system is imposing on Canadian society, on their daily lives, and the future of the nation which I feel if not confronted can prove detrimental. It comes as no shock to read that Ontario residents were among the most skeptical of the positive economic impacts of immigration simply because any positive economic impact immigration brought to the province is negligible at best and not worth writing home about. This is significant because Ontario has been receiving the bulk of immigrants yet has little to boast about aside from a larger population. In a way, Ontario is the canary in the mine.
However, with that said Jason Kenney seems to be pushing for more of it. The impression given is that there are only two options to choose from: maintain current numbers or increase them. Indeed, this has been the mindset of the Minister of Immigration since the terrible days of the Mulroney government, be he or she Liberal or Conservative. This is bothersome since cutting immigration numbers is also a viable option that's rarely explored even though there are sound arguments for doing so.
The excuses for holding immigration levels are familiar, tiresome, and easily refutable but it's all he's got and the media is too self-interested in challenging him on them so why not use them? This time around it's to "help grow and keep the Canadian economy going" if I remember his exact words. When the Canadian economy was robust it was to "help fuel the boom." When the economy tanked in 2008 it was to "help prepare for the recovery." Logic would dictate that if we need high levels of immigration during booming economic periods then a contraction would necessitate the reduction of immigration levels but that's not what we got. So, no matter what happens, be it good times or bad, we always need a high and ever increasing number of immigrants. So when do we not need high and ever increasing numbers of immigrants?
Speaking of which, on the same day Jason Kenney made the announcement to hold immigration levels steady StatsCan reported Canada's real GDP had contracted by 0.1 per cent in August.
The economy shrank by 0.1 per cent in August, the first decline in real gross domestic product since February, Statistics Canada reported today.
Analysts had expected growth of about 0.2 per cent on a month-over-month basis.The statistics agency said the August contraction was driven by a 0.5 per cent dip in goods production, mainly due to decreases in mining, oil and gas extraction and manufacturing.
Overall, StatsCan noted shrinking output in 10 out of 18 industrial sectors.A couple of things to take away from this.
First is that these so-called "analysts" are just glorified crystal ball gazers. They expected growth at 0.2 per cent but instead we got a contraction of 0.1 per cent. Armed with their extensive educations and years of experience how did they not see that? These are men and women fed data on daily basis only to do nothing more than make an educated guess which more often than not proves to be wrong. Why we take these people seriously is beyond me but it's to them that government's too often turn to form policy which produces mixed results at best but often fail based on the simple fact that man cannot predict the future. This also extends to the immigration system where forecasts and studies and demographic trends work in concert to create a vision of a future not yet realized but when it does come those forecasts and studies and demographic trends, though sometimes accurate, oftentimes turn out to be off the mark, or exaggerated, or flat out wrong. Setting immigration levels based on dubious information can be disastrous.
The second thing to note is that mass immigration has not produced the roaring economy that was promised. It has not sheltered the country from a global economic downturn; in a globalized world it cannot do that. Though assumed, it has not made Canada more productive compared to other countries nor has it leapfrogged the nation to the front of the heap when it comes to innovation. Canadians are no better off now than when the mass immigration madness set in. Indeed, one can successfully argue that it has made Canadians worse off than they otherwise are.
Let's abandon playing seer and look at what we do know. We know that Canada has the best educated adults in the world according to a recent OECD study. We also know that Canada is in the top three when it comes to spending on education, just behind the United States and Switzerland. We also have the highest immigrant intake numbers per-capita in the world allegedly attracting the world's best and brightest.
Things should be looking pretty for Canadians but not so. According to the same OECD study Canada displays a paradox. Despite having a well educated workforce "a baffling chunk of them" earn well below the median wage. A disconcerting number of Canada's well educated youth face a life of perpetual underemployment. More significantly, this "paradox" also affected immigrants and not just recent ones. Immigrants who have been in the country for more than 10 to 29 years were "more likely to be earning well below their education levels."
Making things worse the official unemployment rate stands at 7.4% along with a youth unemployment rate (ages 15-24) at 14.7%. These are official numbers. The real numbers a typically much higher when other criteria like underemployment or part-time work or those who excused themselves from the labour force due to discouragement are counted.
And still the government intends to maintain Canada's already too high immigration numbers. It may very well be that mass immigration of the scale Canada has been entertaining for the past three decades is a culprit to the existence of this "paradox."
Canada's economy doesn't lend itself to such high numbers in the first place. The Canadian economy is mostly characterized by three economic sectors: resource extraction, financial services, and the public sector. Of the three, two provide nothing or real worth: the financial sector and the public sector. Though one can find employment in these sectors they don't generate anything of real, material value. Indeed, one can guess as to whether the financial sector provides anything of real social value to begin with. The only sector that produces anything or real value is the resource sector in which we remove raw materials from the ground just to export them overseas and then import them again to buy back as a finished good. This isn't the kind of economy that would necessitate the importation of a quarter of a million people a year for the past thirty years with an additional 300,000 temporary foreign workers who are only temporary in name.
I can only speculate to the real reasons why immigration levels are to remain steady but it's probably the usual suspects. Such as we need to import the people to keep to real estate bubble from exploding spectacularly; the "big six" banks need more bank accounts to siphon money from; the private sector needs immigrants as a form of salary and wage control; the political parties need the continued importation of votes while enduring themselves to ethnic bloc votes in voter rich urban centers; and so forth.
But there may be another reason for it. It may be because Jason Kenney is trying to clear the skilled immigrant backlog as quickly as possible. This is a backlog he inherited from the reckless mismanagement of previous governments, both Liberal and Conservative, and he says he's on track to clear it by the end of 2013. This is something I'll believe when I see it but to his credit he has manged to cull some 280,000 applications from the system; more than a single cohort of immigrants in a year. If this is his intent and he achieves it then hopefully he'll move to reduce Canada's annual immigrant intake, fingers crossed.