Canada Needs To Reduce Its Immigration Levels

Canada needs to reduce its immigration levels

By Dan Murray
Special to the Vancouver Sun
April 8, 2009

In January, Canada lost 129,000 jobs. In February, another 83,000 disappeared. No one knows how many losses the coming months will bring, but the outlook is not good.

Canadians should be asking the following question: As the recession deepens, why are all of our federal political parties still supporting an immigration intake of around 250,000 per year?

In effect, this amounts to bringing in a quarter of a million people to compete with our own unemployed for a decreasing amount of employment.

And why are our labour organizations silent, especially when their own members are suffering?

It wasn't always this way. Canada's labour movement has traditionally pressured Ottawa to reduce immigration levels in times of high unemployment. Provincial and municipal governments were similarly involved. In fact, from the 1920s until 1990, when unemployment rose, Ottawa responded by lowering immigration.

That all changed in 1990. Here is what happened.

In 1990, the policy of lowering immigration in times of high unemployment was abandoned. Barbara McDougall, the immigration minister at the time, convinced her cabinet colleagues to increase levels to 240,000 immigrants per year. In 1984, when her government had assumed power, Canada had an immigration intake of around 85,000.

Before McDougall's announcement, her government had wisely asked Health and Welfare Canada to research the question of whether immigration could solve future problems related to aging. One of its conclusions was that immigration levels of up to 600,000 per year would not reduce Canada's average age or make the country younger. In fact, rather than increase immigration, Health and Welfare said that it was statistically better to provide jobs for Canada's unemployed 45-plus males and to make better use of Canada's female workforce.

Also before McDougall's announcement, her government had asked the Economic Council of Canada whether increases in immigration (and the resulting increase in Canada's population) could stimulate Canada's economy. The council's conclusion was that if Canada wanted a stimulus for the economy, it should not look to immigration. In fact, Canada had had its fastest growth in real per capita income at times when net immigration was zero or even negative.

In the 18 years that followed, an immigration tsunami has struck the country. Successive federal governments, seemingly unaware of the federal government's own extensive research, have justified the tsunami by claiming that Canada needs high immigration levels to deal with our aging population and to provide economic benefits.

In the past few years, immigration experts have reminded Ottawa of its own research.

As a result, Ottawa has been embarrassed enough times that it has tempered its more ridiculous comments on these two issues. However, many of Canada's immigration lawyers and immigration advocates feel no such shame and continue to spread the nonsense.

For the past few years, federal and provincial politicians have resorted to the claim that Canada has a labour shortage. But if Canadians looked at the list of occupations in which such a so-called shortage exists, they would soon see that although Canada may have small shortages, the general claim is grossly exaggerated, if not outrightly false.

The blunt truth is that Canada has had more than 18 years of uninterrupted, senselessly high immigration (an average of 240,000 plus per year.) Since 1990, we have taken close to five million people; most of this immigration was unnecessary, driven by the vote-getting interests of politicians and a multibillion-dollar immigration industry.

Although our environmental organizations (especially the prominent ones which should be showing leadership) have been silent about the negative effects of the immigration tsunami on many areas of Canada, the damage is evident. That is clear particularly on Lower Mainland.

In addition, it has produced displacement for students in our educational institutions. And it has introduced unnecessary competition for our labour force.

Most important of all, the senselessness will be repeated over the next 18 years unless our labour leaders and our politicians at every level recognize that for economic, environmental and cultural reasons, Canada needs a long immigration breather.

Dan Murray is with Immigration Watch