The Canadian Press, CBC News, CTV News – In a revelation that has sparked considerable debate, federal public servants had warned the Canadian government two years ago about the potential adverse effects of increased immigration on housing affordability and service provision. These warnings, as highlighted in documents obtained by The Canadian Press, were largely centered around the strains on housing and the economy as Canada prepared its immigration targets for 2023 to 2025.
The central issue outlined was the disparity between population growth, fueled largely by immigration, and housing construction as the federal authority managing immigration, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) was urged to consider this imbalance. The statistics are stark: “In Canada, population growth has exceeded the growth in available housing units,” a statement that underscores the crux of the current housing crisis.
Despite these warnings, the federal government decided to increase the annual intake of permanent residents to 500,000 by 2025, a significant rise from previous years. This ambitious target is nearly double the number of permanent residents welcomed in 2015, bringing the issue of housing affordability to the forefront of political and public discourse.
This rapid increase in population growth has put unprecedented pressure on health care and affordable housing. Settlement and resettlement service providers, grappling with the effects of increased immigration levels and initiatives related to Afghanistan and Ukraine, are experiencing significant strain.
The Liberal government, facing mounting criticism and political liability over housing affordability, has been compelled to refocus its efforts on housing policy. This includes the introduction of new rules to manage the surge in international students, a significant contributor to the population increase.
Recent data underscores Canada’s record-breaking population growth, heavily influenced by the influx of temporary residents, primarily through international student and temporary foreign worker programs. This surge, the largest since 1957, is reshaping the demographic landscape of the country.
Experts from various sectors, including Bay Street and academic institutions, echo the sentiment that Canada’s robust population growth is eroding housing affordability. The Bank of Canada’s analysis aligns with these views, highlighting the impact of population growth on increasing rents and home prices. Public opinion polls further reveal growing concerns among Canadians about the pressures of immigration on infrastructure, services, and housing.
In defense of its immigration policies, the Liberal government maintains that immigration drives economic prosperity and supports the country’s demographic challenges. However, amid heightened scrutiny, Immigration Minister Marc Miller set the annual target at 500,000 permanent residents for 2026, a decision mirroring the government’s commitment to high immigration levels.
Attention is now shifting to the steep increase in non-permanent residents, particularly international students and temporary foreign workers. This trend raises concerns about the reliance on low-wage migrant workers and the exploitation of international students by dubious post-secondary institutions.
Mikal Skuterud, an economics professor specializing in immigration policy, criticizes the federal government for losing control over temporary migration flows. He argues that the high immigration narrative, popularized since the Liberal government’s election in 2015, has been exaggerated. While immigration may boost the gross domestic product (GDP), it seemingly has little effect on improving GDP per capita, a key indicator of living standards.
The findings and expert opinions present a complex picture of Canada’s immigration policy and its ramifications. As Canada navigates these challenges, it becomes evident that a balanced approach to immigration is crucial, one that aligns with the country’s economic needs and housing capabilities.