Fall Economic Statement: Immigration key to Canada’s economic recovery

Kareem El-Assal
Published: November 30, 2020

On November 30, Canada's finance minister Chrystia Freeland unveiled an update on how the Canadian government will continue to support the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Each fall, Canada's finance minister provides an overview of the country's economic and fiscal situation. The 2020 version of this update is of added importance in light of COVID-19.

Following a huge decline in economic activity and jobs at the start of the pandemic, Canada began to enjoy a recovery over the summer months. However, coronavirus case levels have spiked at a concerning rate in recent months, resulting in a fresh round of lockdowns in certain parts of the country, such as in Toronto.

Earlier this year, Canada's finance department said the country would run a deficit of over $340 billion to support the economy during the coronavirus pandemic. In today's update, the department revised this figure to over $381 billion.

Canada has rolled out a variety of exceptional measures throughout 2020 to support the economy and jobs as it seeks to mitigate the damage caused by the pandemic. Such measures include the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which was income assistance to workers affected by COVID-19, as well as measures such as rent and wage assistance to employers.

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Today's Fall Economic Statement notes that COVID-19 has significantly reduced permanent and temporary resident arrivals to Canada. It projects that Canada's population growth will fall to around 1 per cent this year compared with 1.4 per cent in each of 2018 and 2019. Weaker immigration levels is hurting Canada's labour force and economic growth.

To underscore the importance of immigration to Canada's economy, the Statement observes that immigration supported half of the average of the country's real GDP growth between 2016 and 2019.

Canada is already preparing its post-COVID-19 immigration plans so that it can utilize the skills and talents of newcomers after the pandemic to support a recovery in economic growth and jobs.

In late-October, Canada's immigration minister Marco Mendicino tabled the most ambitious immigration plan in Canadian history. Under the 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan, Canada will aim to welcome over 400,000 new permanent residents each year.

Today's Statement points out that the federal government will provide Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) with $72 million to modernize its Global Case Management System into a digital platform and away from the "current cumbersome paper-based system."

The purpose of this investment is to "contribute to Canada's world-class immigration system through enhanced client service, operational efficiency and program integrity, ensuring a higher level of service and internal capacity to bring the skills and talents of new Canadians to our communities."

Overall, the Statement outlines that the Canadian government will commit a total of $750 million between 2021 and 2026 to supporting higher immigration levels.

Another big part of Canada's Immigration Levels Plan entails increasing the number of skilled workers welcomed under Express Entry. In recent weeks, IRCC has held its largest Express Entry draws ever, issuing 5,000 permanent residence invitations in each draw. IRCC may hold an Express Entry draw for the third consecutive week in the coming days.

Express Entry is among five major Canadian immigration stories to watch to conclude 2020.

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