When The Conference Board Of Canada Talks, Take A Valium


The following is a 10 point evaluation of The Conference Board Of Canada's recent publication, “RENEWING IMMIGRATION”.

(1) THE CONFERENCE BOARD OF CANADA REPORT DOES PROVIDE SOME INTERESTING BACKGROUND, BUT ITS REPORT IS STRONGLY BIASED IN FAVOUR OF EMPLOYERS. In fact, its general tone is that Canada needs to get large numbers of workers as quickly as possible. The Conference Board claims that it is “the foremost, independent, not-for-profit applied research organization in Canada”. It says that it is “objective and non-partisan”. It boasts that it provides “insights you can count on”. However, it includes no comment from labour organizations and almost nothing from prominent Canadian or non-Canadian individuals or organizations that are critical of the Canadian immigration industry's control of Canada's immigration policies. All of this shows that the report is “partisan”, not “independent” and that its “insights” cannot be counted on.

(2) THE REPORT IGNORES THE LANDMARK STUDIES WHICH CONTRADICT WHAT THE CONFERENCE BOARD IS PROPOSING. For example, it does not mention the thoughtful work of the Economic Council of Canada which concluded that if Canada wanted an economic stimulus, it should not look to immigration. In contrast, the Conference Board says immigrants “raise living standards”. The Board also ignores the landmark and thorough Health and Welfare Canada study of the late 1980's which concluded that made-in-Canada solutions to the aging population issue were superior to the use of immigration. Instead, the Conference Board repeatedly says that immigration is a key to Canada's future. Finally, the Conference Board also ignores the CD Howe's “No Elixir Of Youth…” of 2006 which demonstrated that if Canada uses immigration to solve the aging population issue, it will have to import absurdly-high numbers of immigrants. According to the Howe report, a much more sensible thing to do would be to gradually increase Canada's retirement age to 70. The Conference Board does refer to Migration Watch UK and to the UK House of Lords study which concluded that immigration provided only negligible benefits to the resident population of the UK. But it gives that study only passing attention.

(3) THE REPORT ASSUMES THERE IS A GLOBAL COMPETITION FOR TALENT AND THAT CANADA MUST ACT FAST TO GET ITS SHARE. It makes much use of hyperbole. It describes immigration as “a global war for talent”. It uses statements such as “Global talent is the 'new oil' ; “And just like oil, 'demand far outstrips supply' “. It adds : “those countries that fail to address the new global competition for skilled labour, place themselves at a major competitive disadvantage and will find themselves on the margins… of securing skilled global workers”. (P.6) It says that fertility rates are falling in source countries like China–implying that Canada cannot count on getting workers from China's 1.3 billion !! This is quite a statement considering that China would probably gladly send off half of its population with great cheering. The Board presents little evidence for the “global competition” claim and plenty of the typical immigration industry tactic of making Canadians afraid. The obvious purpose is to get Canadians to accept even higher immigration than the 250,000 regular immigrants Canada takes now.

(4) THE CONFERENCE BOARD PRESENTS THE LESSONS OF 3 CASE STUDIES, BUT IT DOESN'T ASK WHAT NET BENEFIT CANADA GETS FROM THESE BUSINESSES. : (a) Alberta's Gas And Oil Extraction Sector (132,000 workers, about 6.8% of Alberta's workforce in 2006); (b) Tower Cleaners In Calgary (150 workers in 3 plants with plans to open as many as 10 more stores in the next 18 months. Most workers are Canadians.); (c) Maple Leaf Foods' Use Of Temporary Foreign Workers in Brandon (Maple Leaf's Brandon Plant employs 1990 workers. Approximately 79% of the workers at the Brandon plant were born outside of Canada. Maple Leaf employs 23,000 workers. High percentages of its workers in Burlington, Kitchener and other centres are also immigrants. In each of these cases, employers have made successful use of the Temporary Foreign Worker program. All employers involved want to expand their involvement. Each wants to have as few obstacles as possible in its way. The Oil Sands project is the largest of the businesses involved. It employs many Canadians from all over the country. A question that the Conference Board does not ask about the oil sands work is this: Should this project which is turning more and more to foreign workers, and which is shipping oil out of Canada as fast as it can extract it, be slowed down so that it does not have to hire foreign workers and so that its economic benefits are prolonged for as long as possible for Canadians? In the case of Maple Leaf Foods, the Conference Board should have investigated much more deeply the question of why almost all of Maple Leaf's employees were foreign workers. Tower Cleaners' plans seem overly ambitious. In their case and in the other two, how much net benefit is Canada receiving from this foreign worker programme? If it is zero or close to it, why is Canada involved in it?

(5) THE CONFERENCE BOARD RECOMMENDS THAT CANADA FOLLOW THE IMMIGRATION POLICY EXAMPLE OF AUSTRALIA, THE UK AND THE US. All three have simplified their immigration systems, emphasized skilled immigration and made it easier for Temporary Workers to become Permanent Residents. However, with the current economic meltdown, growing unemployment, and fears of recession, the immigration policy example which is now being set by Australia, the UK and the US is the opposite of what the Conference Board advocates. For example, Australia's Prime Minister and its immigration minister have recently said that they will follow tradition and cut immigration if they see that unemployed Australians have to compete with immigrants for jobs. The UK's immigration minister has also talked about reducing immigration because of rising UK unemployment. U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has said that he wants to re-negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement because of its negative effects on American workers. From the 1920s to 1990, Canada sounded much the same. In times of high unemployment, it also took measures such as reducing immigration to protect its workers. Would the Conference Board want Canada to follow the example of these countries now?

(6) The CONFERENCE BOARD REPEATS MANY OF THE IMMIGRATION DECEPTIONS CANADIANS HAVE HEARD SO OFTEN. For example, the last chapter of its report states, “Canada is a country of immigrants”. The problem with this statement is that although it is often repeated, it is literally wrong. As the Economic Council Of Canada pointed out in its 1991 report, in every decade of Canada's history since Confederation, natural increase, not immigration, was the major factor in Canada's population growth. In other words, in all decades, most people living in Canada were born here and a significant number of them had been here for a long time. In the case of French Canadians, many can trace their ancestry to the Canada of the 1600's. Finally, as one would expect from an organization promoting immigration, the Conference Board encourages employers to create “diversity” in their workforces–implying that “diversity” is an unmitigated good. It does not say that creating diversity in a workforce means that recent immigrants will jump to the front of the employment line and that people already in line will have to accept this unfairness.

(7) THE CONFERENCE BOARD SAYS THAT CANADA HAS TO FACE THE FACT THAT THE NUMBER OF WORKERS (VS. NON-WORKERS SUCH AS RETIRED, DISABLED, OR VERY YOUNG CANADIANS) WILL DECLINE RAPIDLY AFTER 2010. According to the Conference Board, the only solution to this problem is the standard immigration industry solution to all problems : to bring as many immigrants as possible to Canada. It ignores the fact that Canada has a significant and growing number of unemployed; that it also has a significant number of potential workers not in the work force; and that Canada could look at increasing the retirement age or at having retirees work part-time (probably both for their own and Canada's benefit) to solve labour shortages.

(8) THE CONFERENCE BOARD ASSUMES THAT CANADA'S POPULATION HAS TO GROW PERPETUALLY. It makes no mention of environmental limits to labour force growth. In referring to Australia, it says that that country is “sparsely populated”. It does not mention recent multi-year droughts in many parts of Australia and the fact that much of Australia (its outback interior) is hostile to human habitation. Nor does it mention the statements by leading Australian environmentalists that Australia's water shortages mean that it is already overpopulated. The Conference Board would probably regard Canada as a virtually empty space—ignoring Canada's equivalent of Australia's outback.

(9) SOME OF THE EVIDENCE THE CONFERENCE BOARD CITES ACTUALLY SUPPORTS THE ARGUMENT FOR REDUCING IMMIGRATION. For example, it says that a recent Canadian study showed that “Within the first 10 years of arriving, 40% of business and skilled worker immigrants moved to other countries.” (P.7) This should be a warning to Canada that it should not use immigration as a significant method of solving its problems. Furthermore, the Conference Board says that Canada's immigration levels should rise after 2010 to 300,000 and that they should peak just below 360,000 in 2025. If Canadians are now concerned about being culturally overwhelmed, they will be even more alarmed at 15 years of an uninterrupted immigration flood.

(10) THE CONFERENCE BOARD SAYS THAT “A DUAL IMMIGRATION SYSTEM HAS EVOLVED” IN CANADA AND THAT THE TWO SYSTEMS SHOULD CONVERGE. The board shows that Canada is now importing almost as many people in its Temporary Foreign Workers programme as it is taking in through its regular immigration programme. The Conference Board recommends that Canada should grant Permanent Residence status and eventual citizenship to the temporary foreign workers it has imported. The Conference Board says that the number of Temporary Foreign Workers has grown from 103,426 in 2003 to 165,198 in 2007 (P.13). It is now over 200,000. Some of the jobs listed for Alberta alone (labourers, babysitters, nannies, helpers and others) suggest that fraud is occurring. If anything is clear, it is that the Temporary Foreign Worker programme should have been monitored much more closely. If Canada is to have immigration, it should consist of one system which is in Canada's interest. Neither system is satisfactory now. The total numbers are absurdly high. Strangely, the Conference Board applauds the Temporary Foreign Worker system in which employers virtually dictate half of Canada's immigration. It points out that increases in the number of Temporary Foreign Workers have been dramatic. But it does so mostly to cheer the high numbers. Canada's interests, not those of employers, have to be placed first. Contrary to what the Conference Board says, that is not occurring in most parts of Canada's immigration system now.


The full Conference Board of Canada's report is available on their web site at no charge. The full report is preceded by an Executive Summary.

A summary of the CD HOWE report, “No Elixir Of Youth…” is available on the Immigration Watch Canada.org web site.