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Canada seeks to increase immigration over next three years as pandemic rages on

Last Updated Oct 30, 2020 at 3:23 pm PST

FILE -- Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino speaks during a press conference on COVID-19 in West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Thursday, March 19, 2020. The Liberal government is updating the interpretation of "parent" in order to make it easier for people to pass on their Canadian citizenship to their children. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang)
Summary

The federal government wants to welcome 1.2 million immigrants over the next three years to help the economy rebound

Boosting productivity would be a better way to improve the country's per capita GDP: business council

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino unveiled the government's latest immigration targets Friday

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The federal government wants to welcome 1.2 million immigrants over the next three years to help the economy rebound from the blow brought on by COVID-19.

However, boosting productivity would be a better way to improve the country’s per capita GDP, according to Jock Finlayson, with the Business Council of BC.

That should be the priority, he said.

“It may be that the Trudeau government doesn’t have the wherewithal or interest in looking at the things that would actually make us more productive and would raise incomes per household and per worker,” he added.

While per person GDP has been fairly stagnant despite high levels of recent immigration, Finlayson acknowledges Canada might need more time to see the full benefit of increasing it.

“Canada was already a country that was virtually leading the world in the rates of international immigration relative to our population size, so it’s not as if we haven’t been welcoming very, very large numbers of newcomers into the country — basically 350,000 permanent immigrants per year, and another 150,000 people who were here on a temporary basis, either as foreign students, or foreign workers with temporary visas,” Finlayson said.

“So, we have very high rates and have had for quite some time of immigration, and the current government has decided they want to dial that up further. I’m a bit perplexed by that. I don’t quite see the reasoning or the economic logic of doing it.”

‘Not convinced it’s a good plan’

Finlayson doesn’t believe it’s a good plan, even if the target is hit.

“I’m not convinced that it actually grows the economic pie on a per person basis. It does grow the economy because you have more people here working and consuming goods and services. But the real acid test, I think, of smart economic policy is whether it expands individual prosperity,” he said.

“Immigration can play a role in those things, but it’s not the central driver of gains in income or GDP per person.”

‘Plan has merit’

Meanwhile, Bryan Yu, an economist with Central 1 Credit Union, believes there is merit in the government’s approach.

“During the pandemic, we’ve seen a sharp decline in the number of permanent residents and admissions into Canada, so we’re really kind of making up for that lost period,” he said.

Yu added a lot of industries need skilled labour, and immigrants coming through skilled-labor programs provides an immediate boost to activity in the economy.

“We’re also looking in a number of steps, that’s not only the current immigrant who may be coming in, it’s also their families and any businesses that they build over time to drive more economic activity.”

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino unveiled the government’s latest immigration targets Friday in a report tabled to Parliament.

The plan tabled in Parliament did not break out the targets for the various immigration categories, just a low and high range.

Altogether, the target figures represent a marked increase in three-year plans unveiled last March, when the government said it was aiming for just over one million people by 2022.

-with files from the Canadian Press