By Rachelle Younglai and Janice Dickson* – January 2023
Canada took in a record number of immigrants last year, a result of a federal plan to compensate for a lack of new arrivals in the first year of the pandemic, and to make up for the country’s aging population and holes in the work force.
The country added just over 437,000 new permanent residents in 2022, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). This topped the department’s target for the year, as well as the previous high of 405,000, reached in 2021.
Immigration now accounts for three-quarters of Canada’s population growth. The federal government’s immigration plan calls for the admission of 1.45 million more new permanent residents over the next three years, which is equivalent to 3.8 per cent of the country’s population.
The majority of the permanent residency spots have been set aside for economic immigrants, a term for newcomers who either have money to invest, or specific desirable skills, or can demonstrate that they are capable of opening businesses.
The federal government has said immigration is crucial for the economy, and that it accounts for as much as 90 per cent of labour force growth in Canada.
But critics of the plan have raised questions about the effects of higher immigration targets on the country’s already-unaffordable urban housing markets. And it is unclear whether Ottawa’s plan will help make up for shortages of labour in low-paid fields such as accommodation, food services, retail and health care assistance.
NDP immigration and housing critic Jenny Kwan said the federal government has missed an opportunity to give temporary foreign workers and undocumented workers permanent resident status. This would give them access to taxpayer-funded health care and allow them to live and work anywhere in Canada, indefinitely. (Temporary foreign workers are typically restricted to one employer and not allowed to switch jobs.)
“The government must stop relying on vulnerable workers and give them the protection of permanent status and ensure their rights are respected,” Ms. Kwan said in an e-mailed statement.
The flood of new permanent residents is expected to bring new homebuyers and renters to communities across the country. That could increase activity in the residential real estate market, which has slowed since early last year, when borrowing costs jumped with a rise in interest rates.
“There is little debate that strong population growth goes hand-in-hand with strong real home price gains over time,” said Douglas Porter, Bank of Montreal’s chief economist.
Rachelle Younglai is The Globe and Mail’s real estate reporter.
Janice Dickson is a reporter in The Globe and Mail’s Ottawa bureau. Previously, Janice was a reporter with The Canadian Press and before that she was a parliamentary reporter for iPolitics. Janice has also co-authored pieces for Newsweek and The Independent. While Janice’s coverage in Ottawa has focused on politics, she has also reported from Europe and the Middle East on the plight of refugees.
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