The federal government of Canada will soon make some major announcements that will shape its economic trajectory for years to come.
By Friday, immigration minister Marco Mendicino will launch Canada’s new Immigration Levels Plan which will detail the number of new immigrants the country seeks to welcome in 2021.
These announcements are usually standard fare.
Since the late-1980s, Conservative and Liberal governments alike have gradually increased Canada’s new immigrant’s intake. The rationale is simple. Immigrants help offset the negative economic and fiscal impacts created by Canada’s low birth rate and aging population.
Nothing about 2020, but, has been standard fare.
The COVID-19 pandemic will result in Canada falling well short of the 341,000 new permanent residence target it had set for 2020.
Instinctively, one may think it no longer makes sense to target a comparable level of immigration next year. Borders have been closed to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Canada has a weaker economy and high unemployment.
But reducing the target due to the coronavirus pandemic would be a mistake for the following reasons.
The pandemic has not changed the need to welcome new permanent residents to replenish the over nine (9) million baby boomers who will reach retirement age by 2030. Our birth rate is too low to replace the boomers and there is talk that economic uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may induce a baby bust.
We will need to rely more on technological advances to meet our future workforce needs but we still need talented immigrants and Canadians to support advances in technology. In addition, Canada’s economy can only grow so much in the absence of the labor force growth that was being exacerbated by immigration prior to the pandemic.
A case can be made that higher immigration is now even more crucial.
Economic activities may weaken even further if we have a baby bust.
Government debts is rising to keep the economy going during the pandemic, but future generations will eventually need to service the debts.
Hence, welcoming more newcomers will be important to support the growth we will need to turn our post-COVID economic fortunes around.
One can legitimately say that it is unwise to welcome more immigrants during a period of high unemployment.
The rebuttal for this argument is that immigration brings about job creation in the short run as new immigrants spend money to get themselves established in Canada.
Job creation will increase once the pandemic is over. We need to begin preparing for the post-coronavirus economic recovery now.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Canada enjoyed some of its lowest unemployment rates ever in part due to its low birth rates and aging population. We will eventually return to relatively low unemployment levels and we will need immigrants to fill vacancies.
A new study by IRCC shows that immigrants who have recently arrived in Canada as highly skilled workers are performing well in the labor market.
Given we are welcoming the best of the best, we shouldn’t be too concerned about the ability of these newcomers to eventually land on their feet in Canada.
Finally, protecting the health and safety of the Canadian people remains the key priority. We should expect this will remain the same irrespective of the target that Mendicino announces by Friday.
The target does not mean Canada will welcome this number of new immigrants next year if the pandemic lingers.
Rather, Canada can highlight its immigration targets but only enable Canadians of tomorrow to physically enter the country when public health experts say that this can be achieved safely.
Immigration was vital to Canada’s economic prosperity prior to the coronavirus pandemic and is set to play even a crucial role in our economic and fiscal health post-pandemic.
It would be wise for the Canadian government to stay on the course on immigration. The best decision may be to announce immigration targets for 2021 and beyond that are in consonance with the level of newcomer admissions Canada targeted pre-pandemic.