On Thursday, Chrystia Freeland was asked if Canada has an immigration problem. In her response, she suggested Canada has a housing problem.
She argued that Canada is the most welcoming country in the world to new entrants and enjoys economic and competitive advantages as a result. But “I strongly believe that if we want to be a country that welcomes new Canadians, this is the right thing to do for all of us,” she said, adding, “We have to build homes faster. “Hmm,” he said.
The question to the Minister of Finance was Coverage by Canadian Press It has been revealed that a senior civil servant at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada was briefed in 2022 on the “mismatch between population growth and housing supply.” This discrepancy between supply and demand tends to cause housing prices to rise.
But how the problem is framed – as a problem of too many immigrants, too little housing, or both – is crucial. While it may seem like a simple question of supply and demand, the issue of immigration and housing does not require a simple answer.
As much as population growth is a factor in housing prices in Canada, it may be an oversimplification to think of it as an overall “immigration” problem rather than a problem with specific elements of the immigration system. there is.For example, the federal government Rapid increase in arrivals of non-permanent residents – in particular international student and foreign temporary workers.
“If you look at the last 30 years, you see an influx of new things. [permanent residents] has long been an important driver of population growth. He has been here for about a year. [non-permanent residents] “Population growth has become more pronounced and now accounts for a larger share of population growth,” said Toni Gravel, Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada. It was pointed out in a speech last month..
Big questions about international students and workers
Immigration Minister Mark Miller took some steps Imposing restrictions on student visas. But it’s not clear whether he’s done enough.
“When it comes to international students, there’s some work that needs to be done, whether it’s reforming the graduate work permits that they get or actually managing the volumes,” Miller said in an interview to be aired on Sunday. rosemary burton live.
At the same time, if the federal government tried to significantly restrict such lucrative admissions flows, universities could turn white, perhaps arguing: Otherwise there is insufficient funds.
In his December speech, Gravel also raised an interesting question about the distribution of temporary work permits. Specifically, whether there are enough permits for the kinds of workers who could help build more housing in this country.
“Canada is admitting more newcomers than ever before, but only about 3 per cent of them.” [non-permanent workers] “By comparison, approximately 8 percent of the total employed population works in construction,” he said.
If immigration is successfully used to spur housing construction, supply may actually help meet demand.
Housing shortage and Canadian consensus
Freeland said this week that Canada has the “social capital” to welcome immigrants, and she wasn’t wrong. For more than 20 years, a minority of Canadians have believed that there are “too many” immigrants in this country. According to an Environics poll.
But that consensus has been significantly shaken over the past year, and that’s the bigger concern hanging over this debate.
When asked by Environics in 2022, 69% of respondents disagreed with the idea that there are too many immigrants to Canada, while 27% agreed. By September last year, opposition had fallen to 51 percent, while support reached 44 percent.
The good news in this study is that the drop in enthusiasm doesn’t seem to be based on social or cultural concerns about newcomers. Among those who agreed there were too many immigrants, the proportion who said immigrants were a threat to Canadian and Quebec culture actually fell from 24 per cent to 8 per cent. Additionally, 74% of all respondents still agreed that “the economic impact of immigration is positive.”
Instead, the new doubts seem to be driven almost entirely by concerns about housing. The number of people who say immigrants are driving up housing prices or contributing to a housing shortage for other Canadians jumped from 15% to 38%.
Therefore, solving the housing problem is doubly important. Canadians need to be able to live comfortably, and failing to do so can threaten social cohesion.
The dangers of scapegoating immigrants
While this week has focused attention on immigration and its potential negative impact on the cost and availability of housing, the Desjardins report released Wednesday found that a “sharp decline” in non-permanent residents is “This could further deepen the recession expected in early 2024.” . ”
This highlights that it is a difficult balance to strike and that there are trade-offs. The Liberal Party will not be praised if its efforts to make housing more affordable are blamed for causing the economic downturn.
If we accept the premise that increased immigration is economically and socially positive for Canada, and is even a public policy imperative, then there is a problem with significantly reducing immigration for the sake of the housing market. There is a danger of replacing the problem with another problem.
However, the risk of an influx of immigrants still remains. unfairly made a scapegoat It’s best to think that the problem lies with the federal, provincial and local governments who are failing to ensure that enough housing is being built in Canada.
It may be unfortunate that the housing crisis is creating suspicions about immigrants, but blaming immigrants has become a convenient excuse for governments to avoid necessary investment in public housing and changes to local zoning. It would be even worse if I did. Even if this country were to suddenly reduce immigration to zero, there would still be room for such measures.
In an ideal scenario, Canada would see significantly more immigration and more housing. And it would be a mistake to think that current problems can simply be blamed on one or the other.