Too Many Immigrants, Not Too Few

Too many immigrants, not too few

The Gazette
Published: Friday, September 19

We sometimes complain about politicians who, once elected, don't do what they promised to do. But it is sometimes much better for the country when certain promises are broken.

Let's hope, for example, that promises to raise immigration levels are not kept. Either our political leaders do not know that Canada is facing an immigration crisis or they care more about gaining a few more so-called “ethnic voters” than they do about telling the truth.

Canada is taking far too many immigrants, and the leaders of all the parties are promising to take even more. There are already close to a million immigrants waiting in the backlog to come here. They have all met the requirements and by law must be admitted. There is also a backlog of 62,000 asylum seekers before the refugee board, and even if these are not found to be genuine refugees most will be allowed to stay. In addition, there are between 150,000 and 200,000 temporary workers now in the country, and here again it is unlikely many of them will ever go home.

Despite these extraordinary numbers, the Harper government wants to raise the immigration intake next year to 265,000. The Liberals and the New Democrats have said they want even more, up to 1 per cent of our population, or 333,000 each year.

Even in the best of times, such enormous numbers would place a serious burden on the economy and on the already strained infrastructure of the three cities where most of them would end up. When there is a turndown in the world economy and dire predictions of serious recession or worse, this is not the time to be bringing thousands of newcomers to Canada. In July of this year Ontario alone lost 55,000 jobs – so what is the rationale for more immigration? There is no valid rationale. There is only one reason why our political parties push for high immigration intake and that is they see every new immigrant as a potential vote for their party.

Few economists today argue that immigration helps the economy in any significant way. Studies in Canada since the mid-1980s have pointed out that immigration has little impact on the economic welfare of the receiving country, and similar studies in the United States and Britain have reached the same conclusion. Comprehensive studies by George Borjas, the world's most renown immigration economist, at Harvard, have shown that immigration's only significant impact is to reduce the wages of native workers.

Our politicians justify their desire for more immigrants by raising the spectre of an aging population and tell us immigration is the only answer to this dilemmaBut many studies in Canada and elsewhere showe that immigration does not provide the answer to population aging.

Moreover, there is no evidence that a larger labour force necessarily leads to economic progress. Many countries whose labour force is shrinking are still enjoying economic buoyancy. Finland, Switzerland and Japan are only a few examples of countries that do not rely on massive immigration to succeed. Productivity is the answer to economic success, not a larger population.

Most Canadians assume that our immigrants are selected because they have skills, training and education that will enable them to enhance our labour force. But only about 18 to 20 per cent of our immigrants are selected for economic factors. By far the bulk of the immigrants we receive come here because they are sponsored by relatives or because for so-called humanitarian reasons; none of these have to meet the “points system” of selection. This is why over 50 per cent of recent immigrants are living below the so-called poverty line and not earning nearly the wages paid to equivalent Canadian workers.

It also explains why a study published this year by Prof. Herbert Grubel of Simon Fraser University revealed that the 2.5 million immigrants who came to Canada between 1990 and 2002 received $18.3 billion more in government services and benefits in 2002 than they paid in taxes. Isn't it time our party leaders were made aware of this study?

We have already experienced the impact large inflows of population have had on the health, education, traffic, social services and crime rates of our three major urban centres. And it may be that cutting the immigration flow in half would do more than any gas tax to help reduce our environmental pollution.

If immigration is to be an issue in the election campaign then let us insist that the real issues be discussed, and that our politicians contribute more to the debate than promising higher numbers. Canadians deserve better.