The Real Cost Of Immigration (Our Immigrants Are Failing Because We Simply Admit Too Many People Who Have Little Likelihood Of Economic Success

November 20, 2005: The Real Cost Of Immigration (Our Immigrants Are Failing Because We Simply Admit Too Many People Who Have Little Likelihood Of Economic Success)

The real cost of immigration

Our immigrants are failing because we simply admit too many people who have little likelihood of economic success

Randall Denley
The Ottawa Citizen

Sunday, November 20, 2005

CREDIT (photo) : Fred Chartrand, The Canadian Press
In an economic update last week, Finance Minister Ralph Goodale said immigrant numbers will rise sharply by 2010 and hit 400,000 a year by 2012.

The bill for Canada's wrong-headed immigration policy continues to mount, as the arguments supporting it become more absurd. The most amazing number in Finance Minister Ralph Goodale's economic update last week was the little-noticed statistic on immigration. To maintain the modest 1.4 per cent annual increase in Canada's workforce that we have seen since 1990, immigration will have to reach 900,000 a year by 2050. That's about four times the number of people the country is now struggling to admit. And we won't have to wait until 2050 for the big numbers, either. The graphic showing immigrant demand starts to rise like a ski hill by 2010 and hits 400,000 a year by 2012.

Anyone who has followed the difficulties Canada has had admitting the still-large total of 235,000 immigrants a year would immediately realize these much bigger numbers just aren't going to happen. Surely, this should constitute the moment when the federal government finally realizes its plan to keep enlarging the workforce through immigration isn't going to succeed, and it starts to take a more rational approach.

Of course, that's not what this government intends to do. The Liberals have screwed in the light bulb, but the light has not yet turned on.

Instead of starting to prepare for a smaller workforce, the Liberals have promised to throw more money at the problem. The financial update/election platform promises $5 billion over five years to help immigrants and aboriginals get into the workforce.

Of that, $1.3 billion will help immigrants find work and learn to speak French or English. Although we are told we need a large flow of immigrants to meet the demands of a worker-hungry economy, our immigrants do have a tough time getting started. Even after two years in Canada, only 63 per cent of prime, working-age immigrants are in the workforce. That compares to the national rate of 81 per cent.

Workplace training programs for immigrants, aboriginals and people with disabilities will attract an additional $3.5 billion. Again, we see a disconnect between reality and the official line. Canada's new immigrants are highly skilled and educated, and yet we need to put in place major training programs for them. It's also good to know the government wants to train aboriginals for the workforce, while maintaining a policy that encourages many of them to live in farflung, poverty-stricken reserves.

Immigrant poverty is visible in every major Canadian city. In our typically Canadian way, we blame ourselves, but for the wrong reasons. Too many of our immigrants are failing, not because we don't spend enough, care enough, or are racist. We simply admit too many people who have little likelihood of economic success. Start with the 37 per cent who speak neither French nor English. Bit of a problem for finding a job, don't you think?

The total immigration number is always cited by the federal government, as if all those 235,000 people were eager to rush into employment. It's not surprising that immigrants who have actual employment skills would bring their spouses and children, then later want to bring over their parents and other relatives. It is misleading, though, to keep citing the total immigration number as if it represented a supply of ready and willing workers. It ignores the fact that only 57 per cent of our immigrants are in the economic class, the ones admitted because of what they offer in the workplace. The rest are family members or refugees.

That tells us the laughable 900,000 immigrant a year figure means we would be admitting hundreds of thousands of people who can't or won't work, just to net the required number of new employees. What's the real cost of that?

Immigration enthusiasts received more encouragement last week when Canada's current “low” employment rate of 6.6 per cent had some economists worrying about whether we had reached full employment and were facing an impending labour shortage. More immigration, of course, was the preferred solution. The economists conveniently overlooked the fact that 59,100 of the 68,700 new jobs that took unemployment to this supposedly low rate were part-time. That suggests we are underutilizing our workforce, not running out of workers.

Immigration has made Canada a more diverse and interesting country. If that was our goal, it has been achieved. It has done something to expand the workforce, but at a substantial cost. The government's own numbers tell us immigration won't create the growth in workers our government thinks we need.

Those are the rational reasons for large-scale immigration, and they don't stand up. What's left?

An article by Star columnist Jim Travers this week suggested that the Liberals were hyping the merits of immigration to secure the “ethnic vote.”

Shocking. Could it be true?

Contact Randall Denley at 596-3756 or by e-mail,

The Ottawa Citizen 2005