Immigration Our Biggest "Eco" Problem

Immigration our biggest 'eco' problem

Dan Murray
Special to the Vancouver Sun
Tuesday, March 18, 2008

As others have said, EcoDensity is not an ecological initiative and it will not make housing more affordable.

The major assumption in the EcoDensity proposal is that Vancouver's population will grow indefinitely. Without perpetual inflows, EcoDensity would die. For ecological and housing affordability reasons, we must oppose both EcoDensity and perpetual population growth.

Here are three alternatives that will be much more ecological and will make housing more affordable.

– Work with the rest of Metro Vancouver municipalities on a real ecological project. Recently, Metro Vancouver conducted meetings in all of its municipalities on the prospect of bringing close to another million people here by 2031. Metro has about 2.4 million people already. We need an unbiased environmental assessment to determine the impact of putting a million more into this congested area. And make the recommendations binding.

Remember that environmental assessments are required of new mines, factories, major roads, etc. What could be more important for this area than the potential environmental impact of another million? If the “ecologically friendly” are what they say they are, then they should support a thoughtful assessment of our future.

– Work with the rest of Metro Vancouver's municipalities and the provincial government to put an end to the real estate speculation that has been at least partly responsible for massive housing price increases. Whether speculation is offshore or local, bring it under control. Metro Vancouver should be asking Saskatchewan, for example, about what it does to prohibit non-Canadians from buying farm land.

– Work with other Metro Vancouver municipalities to lobby the federal government to reduce our abnormally high immigration levels. Canada has the highest per capita immigrant intake of any country in the world. We currently take in around 260,000 immigrants per year. We also take in about 160,000 temporary workers each year.

That total inflow of people creates demand and causes housing prices to rise. We have to understand that Canada has, since the 1920s, raised and lowered its drawbridge for the benefit of Canadians. But in 1990, that tradition ended and, for the past 18 years, Canada has had an uninterrupted high intake averaging around 240,000 per year. This has caused many negative environmental and economic repercussions.

High immigration levels are not a peripheral issue in the EcoDensity debate. They are the main issue. Our federal government's own research has told it that immigration's so-called economic benefit is virtually zero and that better alternatives exist for dealing with problems caused by an aging population.

The latest argument for high immigration is that Canada has a so-called “worker shortage.” Our immigration industry has whipped many governments into a frenzy, but produced little evidence to support their wild claims.

If Canadians are seriously interested in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we should be working with the population we have, not complicating our situation with more people.

Dan Murray is with Immigration Watch Canada.