Gov’t Ignored Predictions That High Immigration Would Lower Income Growth. Canadians Have Paid The Price

John Meyer, a Canadian businessman and a past-president of Zero Population Growth, is the author of the article (“Immigration To Canada Now That We've Grown”) featured in this bulletin.

Mr. Meyer's observations are particularly relevant in this deepening recession :

(1) In the 1970's, it was predicted that higher rates of immigration would lower per capita income growth. Recent OECD stats on this issue show that Canada has under-performed every other OECD country and that the prediction has come true. High immigration to do the so-called “dirty low paid jobs that Canadians reject” was a clear attempt to expand and perpetuate low-paying work.

(2 The move to raise immigration even higher is a “smoke stack era policy” which ignores social and environmental effects. High immigration makes environmental goals, such as a commitment to Kyoto, worthless.

(3 Creating millions of low-paying workers means creating a group which contributes minimally to our tax pool. This makes it impossible for Canada to both balance budgets and maintain full social programs.

(4) The impact of mass immigration on deficits and the environment has never been officially calculated. High immigration supporters such as cheap labour employers (supported by huge indirect subsidies) and land speculators lobby our governments to keep things that way. Canada, now likely a net food importer, has moved from feeding the world to consuming the world.

(5) Canada's accounting system remains cash-flow based. It values negative things such as sitting in traffic and paving farmland because these activities increase paid activity. Our GDP does not present a true picture because it fails to measure much more important factors in our economy.

(6) Canada needs to advance to a real-wealth accounting system which values environmental assets and considers the true and total effects of high immigration. Our current system hides all these negative effects and allows Canada's immigration lobby to control immigration policy. We do not permit the tobacco industry to write health legislation. We should not allow the immigration lobby to control immigration policy.

(7) “Knowing what we are measuring , looking down the road and developing integrated policies are core competencies for a democratic government–as is keeping a full set of books.” Canada does not have any of these “core competencies” in place.



(Immigration to Canada Now That We've Grown)

By John Meyer
From “The Social Contract”
Volume 14, Number 3 (Spring 2004)
Issue theme: “Richard Lamm: a life in public service”

Thirty years ago immigration to Canada was given its broadest examination — in a national context — in the Green Paper. The economic studies forecast lower per capita income growth with higher rates of immigration. Public opinion surveys showed very strong support (2:1) for a moderate population size and for very low levels of immigration.

Despite the clear delineation of public interest and public will for a balanced level of immigration which would have seen Canada's population stabilize at around 27 million, back room policy makers chose to implement the highest rate of immigration in the world.

Now three decades and five million additional people later, as predicted, Canada has under performed every other OECD country in per capita income growth as our productivity has been left in the dust by nations focused on investing in their people. After all, importing cheap labor “to do the dirty low paid jobs that Canadians reject” was a policy designed to perpetuate low paying jobs and their inherent low productivity and poor working conditions. It worked.

Canadians economic well-being stagnated or declined but in simple GDP growth terms – still used as our main social and economic barometer – the economy boomed. Our national policies reflect what we measure and although GDP represents only a fraction of the wealth creation process, much less social well-being, it is still our main yardstick.

Immigration is the engine of a rapid population growth strategy, unique in the world, that no one seems to be willing or able to explain. The Canadian level is twice as high as that of the U.S. and four times that of Europe. And Immigration Canada is working toward boosting levels even further by 50% to 320,000 annually with escalating levels forever as called for in the Liberal Party Red Book. Such a smoke stack era policy assumes unlimited natural resources and ignores any negative effects on a myriad of social and environmental issues.

Fulfilling Canada's Kyoto commitment to carbon emissions 6% less than our 1990 level would be possible if, by 2012, we had the 1990 population. But we won't. We will have seven million more consumers with a resource-intensive industrial base geared to building one additional Regina every year. By 2050, the Red Book level pushes Canada's population to 52 million and our carbon emissions to1230 mega tons – almost 2 times our Kyoto target of 520.

With our current annual level of immigration around 230,000 (much less 320,000), any commitment Canada makes to Kyoto is worthless. But as one immigration policy maker remarked years ago, “The environment is not our responsibility.”

And neither, it appears are stagnant per capita incomes or the deficits/program cuts that result from a cheap labor economy. Boosting hundreds of thousands of people into more productive, higher paying jobs would increase per capita income, reduce deficits and bolster social programs. But creating millions of low paying jobs, as Canada has demonstrated, makes it impossible to both balance budgets and maintain full social programs. An expanding pool of cheap labor fuels deficits as well as simple GDP growth.

It is safe to say Canadians want reduced working hours, higher incomes, longer vacations, more family time, cleaner air, less congestion, lower crime rates, and a full slate of social programs. High immigration impacts none of these areas positively. Knowing what we are measuring, looking down the road and developing integrated policies are core competencies for a democratic government – as is keeping a full set of books. Despite this, the impact of mass immigration on environment and deficits has never been officially examined, and for good reason; comprehensive analysis is not flattering. Immigration stands unchallenged, unscrutinized and unaccountable.

Where does the current policy come from? Follow the money. Cheap labor employers are supported by huge indirect subsidies and mass immigration makes markets for land speculators. The immigration lobby shouldn't be allowed to control immigration policy any more than the tobacco industry should be allowed to write health legislation.

Canada has matured and, with 32 million people and a rapid loss of prime farmland, is most likely now a net food importer. Few of our resources are being used below their sustainable levels. When did we change our national vision from feeding the world to consuming it?

Thirty years after the Green Paper, we are no longer asking questions about immigration and are locked in a downward spiral of dumbed down social policy fronted by a very controlled, murky, and detached political process.

The world is entering an era of climate change and resource exhaustion as our apparently once stable environment goes dynamic. Yet Canada's accounting system remains cash flow-based and positively values events such as the Quebec ice storm, crime, paving farmland, and sitting in traffic because these events increase the level of paid economic activity. We need to progress to a real wealth accounting system which values both environmental assets and unpaid human time so we can forge comprehensive and socially relevant national policies – of which limits on immigration are an integral part.