OTTAWA – Federal civil servants warned the government two years ago that a large increase in immigration could impact housing affordability and services, internal documents reveal.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
Documents obtained by The Canadian Press through an access-to-information request show Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada analyzed the potential impacts of immigration on the economy, housing and services as it revised its immigration targets for 2023 to 2025. Have prepared.
Among others, the Deputy Minister was warned in 2022 that housing construction has not kept pace with population growth.
One slide deck reads, “Population growth in Canada has exceeded the growth of available housing units.”
“As the federal authority charged with managing immigration, IRCC policy-makers must understand the misalignment between population growth and housing supply, and how permanent and temporary immigration shapes population growth.”
Given the country’s growing demographics, immigration is responsible for almost all of the population growth in Canada.
The federal government ultimately decided to increase the number of permanent residents welcomed to Canada each year to 500,000 in 2025, a decision that attracted considerable attention and scrutiny. This means that in 2025, Canada will welcome almost twice as many permanent residents as in 2015.
The document shows that federal civil servants were well aware that high population growth would put pressure on housing and services.
“The rapid growth has put pressure on health care and affordable housing,” civil servants warned. “Settlement and resettlement service providers are expressing short-term stress due to labor market conditions, increased scale, and Afghanistan and Ukraine initiatives.”
Housing affordability has now become a political liability for the Liberal government. The Conservatives have gained considerable momentum in the past year as the party has been particularly emphasizing issues of affordability while avoiding the issue of immigration. These pressures have forced the Liberal government to refocus its efforts on housing policy and address the increase in international student numbers with new regulations.
Recent data shows that Canada’s population growth pace continues to set records as the country also brings in historic numbers of temporary residents, largely through international student and temporary foreign worker programs.
The country’s population increased by more than 430,000 during the third quarter of 2023, the fastest pace of population growth in any quarter since 1957.
Experts spanning from Bay Street to academic institutions have warned that Canada’s strong population growth is eroding housing affordability as demand exceeds supply.
The Bank of Canada has offered a similar analysis. Deputy Governor Tony Gravelle gave a speech in December warning that strong population growth was pushing up rents and house prices.
Opinion polls also show that Canadians are concerned about the pressure of immigration on services, infrastructure and housing, reducing support for higher immigration.
The Liberal government has defended its immigration policy decisions, arguing that immigrants help bring economic prosperity and help the country’s demographics as the population ages.
However, amid intense scrutiny of the Liberal government’s immigration policy, Immigration Minister Mark Miller set an annual target of 500,000 permanent residents for 2026.
The 2022 documents show that Canada’s immigration targets exceed the recommendations of some experts, including the Century Initiative, an organization that advocates increasing the country’s population to 100 million by the end of the century.
However, the focus is now shifting from these goals to the massive increase in non-permanent residents. Between July and October, nearly three-quarters of Canada’s population growth came from temporary residents, including international students and temporary foreign workers.
This trend is raising concerns about businesses’ increasing reliance on low-wage migrant workers and the lure of international students by shady post-secondary institutions.
During a press conference on Thursday, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said immigration is an economic and social force for the country, but acknowledged the pace of housing needs to be maintained.
“For immigration to work as a Canadian economic strategy, we have to ensure that housing supply is maintained,” Freeland said. “And I think we have to make sure that our immigration system is working as intended.”
Freeland said there is work to be done when it comes to the international student program in particular and referenced some policy changes brought in by the Immigration Minister to tighten the rules of the program.
Mikal Skutterud, an economics professor at the University of Waterloo who specializes in immigration policy, says the federal government appears to have “lost control” of temporary migration flows.
Unlike annual targets for permanent residents, the number of temporary residents is dictated by demand from migrant workers and international students.
He also noted that there is a relationship between the goal of permanent residents and the influx of temporary residents.
He said, “To the extent that you increase the permanent numbers, and migrants realize that the way you get PR is to come here as a temporary resident… then migrants will be more likely to come and try their luck.” are encouraged.”
Skutterud, who has been a vocal critic of the federal government’s immigration policy, says the benefits of higher immigration have been overstated by liberals.
He said that around 2015, when the Liberal government was first elected, a narrative developed in Canada that “immigration was a solution to Canada’s economic growth problems.”
And while the professor says that narrative is what people like to believe, he says that when it comes to rising standards of living, higher immigration has very little impact, as does real GDP per capita. Is measured by.
The released documents show that IRCC civil servants agree.
“Increasing the working-age population could have a positive impact on GDP, but would have little impact on per capita GDP,” civil servants said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 11, 2024.
Noujoud Al Mallis, The Canadian Press