There is no doubt immigration is very important to the economic future of Canada and every business big and small has more or less come to rely on immigrants for their growth and increasingly their very existence.So when RBC, Canada’s most valuable company puts out a report that ominously warns of an imperiled economic future now that immigration has been hit, one needs to pay attention. One school of thought believes there should be a pause in immigration until normalcy returns, vested interests insist that the bad situation will turn worse if we don’t bring in a record number of immigrants.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government had optimistically set a record-high target of 350,000 new permanent residents for 2020, up from 341,000 the previous year which incidentally was also a record high number.
But the RBC report casts a gloomy outlook for the country warning that if current restrictions stay in place through the summer, the country would fall short of its target by an estimated 170,000 people.
This in turn would affect the housing market, universities that now mostly rely on international students to stay alive and businesses who apparently are still facing labour shortages. Although I must confess, I’d pay to have a list of those businesses that are struggling to find staff. In April, Canada’s unemployment stood at 13 percent and that number could likely rise in the months to come. Meanwhile, governments across the country are pleading with businesses not to lay off staff.
The report also goes on to remind Canadians and decision-makers that if it wasn’t for immigrants, cities like Toronto and Vancouver would see their populations shrink as the trend is for young people to move away because of unaffordable housing.
In a poll commissioned by royal LePage in 2019, immigrants were found to be buyers of 21 percent of houses and were expected to purchase a staggering 680,000 homes over the next five years if migration levels were maintained.
“In addition to supporting Canada’s economic growth, newcomers to Canada are vital to the health of our national real estate market,” Phil Soper, Royal LePage president and CEO, said in a statement at the time. “Newcomers are doing more than investing in Canadian real estate, they are investing in their family’s future.”
Lay Canadians reading the RBC report and the LePage poll conclude that immigrants were likely responsible for the rising cost of owning a home in Toronto which in turn was forcing out young Torontonians.
Question is will young people move out of Toronto if prices stabilize or fall? No way. In fact, more young people who were forced out of Toronto and other overpriced cities would probably return if they could secure affordable housing and of course a decent job.
But what this RBC report really says about Canada is that it is dependent upon an unsustainable economic model that relies on endless immigration and population increase.
This has become painfully clear over the last few months. With over 11 million Canadians claiming CERB and countless more struggling to make ends meet, it is natural that the federal Liberals aren’t exactly in a mood to talk about immigration. Government programs and financial assistance to individuals and businesses are artificially keeping the economy functioning but everyone knows that this is not sustainable.
Sure Canada needs immigrants to buy and rent properties and to populate dying universities and colleges across the land, but these immigrants also need jobs, just like millions of Canadians who’ve recently lost their own jobs. What good is it if immigrants and international students are brought in and then find they have no jobs? Will they too end up dependent upon CERB or some form of financial help? It is clear that it will take years before the Canadian economy gets back to normal.
Growth will slow, the economy will shrink and perhaps we need to see whether we can then shape an economy that needs immigrants to keep it healthy and strong but not for its very survival. That should raise a red flag, period.
At a time when there will be fewer jobs, maybe the government can consider new policies like paying a new mother a generous CERB-like salary for her first two babies. This way at least those couples who aren’t having two kids or any kids at all because it would be too expensive would have some incentive to reconsider.
With so many millions of men and women in particular forced back into their homes, the mindset has become a little more domesticated. Having more children or any children at all could not be such a bad idea after all, especially if one person in the relationship could give up his or her job and raise a child which is a full-time job.
Having more Canadian-born children would be a healthier way to grow our population and a less exploitative way. Many young Canadians are going to find it either impossible to find well-paying full time jobs and may have to depend upon the gig economy. By incentivizing couples to consider bringing more children into the world, the government could end up alleviating the economic prospects of young Canadians and also reduce our unhealthy dependence on immigration.