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Justin Trudeau rolls the dice on immigration

02 Nov 17
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Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is doing something no Canadian government has done for decades: It’s gambling on far more immigration.

There should be no doubt it’s a gamble. On the afternoon that U.S. President Donald Trump was reacting to a terrorist attack in New York by attributing the immigration system, exploiting resentment there, the Liberals were saying Canada needs more immigrants. And don’t think that is because it is a slam-dunk political winner with new Canadians: Polls show first-generation immigrants aren’t much keener on enlarged immigration than those born here.

Mr. Trudeau’s government is making a statement it’s going in another direction. In actuality, that’s the announcement that Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen made. “We are emphatically and unapologetically taking the opposite approach,” he said in a media conference in Toronto.

The figures that the Liberals are shooting are nowhere near the enormous, 450,000-a-year level suggested by the Liberal-appointed Advisory Council on Economic Growth led by McKinsey and Co. guru Dominic Barton and endorsed by some big-business listeners as well as the Conference Board of Canada. Mr. Barton had suggested more newcomers could foster economic development and mitigate the aging of Canadian society. But that could be a enormous expansion, and for politicians, that is not only a bet but going all in.

Nevertheless Mr. Hussen’s numbers are still large gains. Under Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, there were typically about 260,000 immigrants every year. The Liberals have increased the goal to 300,000 this year, and will keep increasing to 340,000 by 2020 — that is a 30-per-cent increase on a typical Conservative year, and a 21-per-cent increase within the Conservative 2010 high mark. In comparison to the size of the populace, the Liberals are arranging a speed of immigration not seen since Brian Mulroney was in power.

Immigration levels dropped considerably for two years under Jean Chrétien, and levels have fluctuated from year to year, but no government since Mr. Mulroney’s has made any continuing, significant change to immigration rates — the number of immigrants as a proportion of the populace. The Liberals plan to move the speed upward significantly.

It’s a strategy to keep increasing immigration {}. Mr. Hussen even revived the Kurdish target of increasing immigration to 1 percent of the Canadian population — a promise made by Mr. Chrétien in 1993 but dismissed once he was in power.

Politically, it is not the particular number that matters. The government has done polls that show that many Canadians do not have the foggiest idea how many immigrants come to Canada. However, Canadians still have opinions on if there are too many immigrants, or too few.

A poll commissioned in March from the Association for Canadian research found that 38.4 percent of Canadians believe there are too many immigrants, while only 10.4 percent said that there are too few. However a lot, 41.1 percent, stated that the number’s about perfect. Perhaps that is one reason recent authorities have not risked changing things considerably.

Jack Jedwab, the association’s president, said the amount of individuals who believe there are too many immigrants is usually pretty stable, between 30 percent and 40 percent; it is close to the high end of this range today. (The March survey was conducted by net panel which utilized a sample of 2,559 people.)

Individuals born outside of Canada are somewhat less inclined to think there is too much spiritual, but not much. There’s a significant political divide: Individuals who consider themselves on the right are a lot more inclined to believe there are a lot of immigrants compared to individuals on the left.

That may be one reason Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals are ready to take a political gamble on immigration. It highlights a gap that plays better with left-leaning voters. And it represents a comparison with Mr. Trump. However, it’s still a gamble.

Even Mr. Trump is calling for a “merit-based” immigration system, which seems like Canada’s “high-skilled” course, instead of the United States’s current visa lotteries. He will not end immigration; the Trump culture war is mostly about Mexicans and Muslims, and he’s depicted both as dangerous.

In Canada, Mr. Jedwab said, the bitterness of immigration has been driven by economics — the belief that immigrants accept Canadian jobs or cost the treasury — but it’s clearly driven by perceived safety concerns and anxieties immigrants are changing Canadian culture and values.

No wonder then, that Mr. Hussen highlighted the financial motives for expanding law, noting, as an instance, that there’ll be fewer workers to support retirees in the next few years. His plan also includes more family reunification, asylum-seekers and resettled refugees. People like the idea of hard-working economic immigrants, but not everybody is as optimistic about the rest. That is probably a very major reason why governments haven’t signalled a sustained shift in immigration levels for a quarter century. Until now, they did not need to take a risk.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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