A couple of prominent members of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet told me that their government’s immigration policies had been “purely in the interest of the party,” which logically means that they were not in the public interest. There is no doubt that the recently announced increases in immigration by Minister of Immigration John McCallum are also purely the interest of the Liberal party.
So how do politicians get away with making immigration policies that advance their own interests at the expense of the general public? The Liberals just showed us how to do it: Appoint a commission of experts with a fancy name like Advisory Council on Economic Growth, staff it with people you know to be in favour of vastly more immigration, publicize the council’s recommendation, and wait for some Libertarians like Terrance Corcoran and Andrew Coyne to support it enthusiastically in the mass media.
Then have the Minister of Immigration appear moderate and wise by announcing an increase in immigration by only 15.4 per cent, from 260,000 to 300,000, rather than the 73 per cent to 450,000 recommended by the council.
How does mass immigration serve the interests of political parties? It brings financial and electoral support from employers who profit from being able to employ low-skilled and high-skilled labour at wages that are lower than what they would have to pay for Canadian workers. Electoral support also comes from the owners of real estate, developers and brokers, construction workers and mortgage brokers who gain much from the increased business immigrants bring.
Parties also gain support from immigrant communities who expect to gain political and economic clout, enjoy having family members join them, and benefit from larger markets for ethnic products and media. Support also comes from the large “immigration industry” of social workers, lawyers and language teachers who are paid by the government.
These groups benefiting from mass immigration lobby the government effectively, while the general public is unorganized and does not. To the contrary, the public is lobbied by the government, which issues a constant flow of propaganda about the alleged economic and social benefits from mass immigration and suppresses the distribution of fact-based accounts of the negative effects.
The government also issues highly misleading information about the 172,500 “economic migrants” who will be selected in 2017 for their likely economic success. In fact, assuming an average family size of four, only 43,125 of them will be truly economic immigrants, the rest will be their spouses and children. Many will later be joined by their parents and grandparents, who will number 20,000 in 2017 and contribute very little to the economy.
The success of this shielding was revealed on the occasion of a recent Munk debate at the University of Toronto, which pitted advocates in favour against advocates against admitting more refugee claimants. In a poll taken before the debate, 75 per cent of the audience wanted more refugees. After the debate and the presentation of facts by the con-side, only 55 per cent of the audience still held that view, a figure likely to become even smaller as the audience digests the facts more fully.
Information about many negative effects of mass immigration is kept from the public. For example, recent immigrants, even after many years in Canada, have lower incomes and pay lower taxes while they absorb the same government services as Canadians. As result, immigrants impose a fiscal burden of $30 billion a year on taxpayers, which will grow all the time with the arrival of new immigrants. For a perspective on this figure, consider that there is much debate over the affordability of spending $30 billion to renew the Canadian navy over the next 30 years!
Canadians suffer from the effects immigrants have on the cost of housing and the levels of congestion, pollution and overcrowding in schools, universities and hospitals, the latter especially as the many parents and grandparents of immigrants near the end of their lives and add to the ever-growing wait lists for medical treatment experienced by all Canadians.
Immigrants reduce the unfunded liabilities of the Canada Pension Plan, but only for a limited time since they have the same age profile as Canadians and as they age stop paying premiums and receive benefits.
Immigrants raise the total size of national income but not of individual Canadians since immigrants’ pay matches their contribution to output. The gains from the so-called “opportunities to trade” are very small, as are the claimed gains due to economies of scale in production since manufacturers and mining companies already access world markets enabled by free trade and low transportation costs.
Immigrants increase Canada’s cultural diversity, but the benefits from it have reached diminishing returns and the development of ethnic enclaves threatens national harmony and security.
These and other facts about the detrimental effects of mass immigration on the well being of Canadians are well documented by government statistics and academic research. Unfortunately, governments and the beneficiaries of mass immigration have prevented these facts from reaching wide audiences and allowing political parties to continue to use mass immigration policies for their narrow self-interest.
However, the election of President Donald Trump shows that there is a limit to these policies. At some point, suffering workers and taxpayers will vote for politicians who promise to put their interests above those of a political party, business and other groups. Voters in many countries of Europe have already done so. Could McCallum’s announced higher immigration levels have the same result in Canada?
Herbert Grubel is a professor of economics (emeritus) at Simon Fraser University. He has no affiliation with Immigration Watch Canada, nor does Immigration Watch Canada have an affiliation with him.
This article was published on Dec. 12, 2016 in The Vancouver Sun and is available in the public domain.