Most Canadians believe heightened immigration will be valuable to national economy

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: March 11, 2023

Reports from urban population centres across Canada suggest that rent prices in these areas are “soaring” as a result of “explosive population growth.”

This is creating conditions that are requiring many Canadians to leave major cities and find more affordable housing in other communities.

Additionally, there is a belief that immigration may compromise the Canadian housing market by creating a level of demand that the country may not be able to keep up with. In fact, according to Royal Bank of Canada economist Robert Hogue, Canada would need to build at least “270,000 [new housing] units per year by 2025” to stay in line with expected demand.

Public opinion on the economic impact of heightened immigration

In spite of this suggestion, a recent Bloomberg-commissioned poll from Nanos Research Group indicates that the majority of polled Canadians remain focused on the positive impact they expect immigration to have on the economy.

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The following breaks down the responses of 1,012 survey participants:

  • More than half (52%) of respondents said they believe Canada’s increased annual immigration target will have a “positive or somewhat positive” effect
  • Slightly over one-third (38%) said this increase will have a “negative or somewhat negative” impact
  • Around 1-in-20 surveyed Canadians (6%) were “unsure” what economic impact would come from increased annual immigration targets
  • A small contingent of respondents (4%) indicated that they believe Canada’s increased immigration target will have “no impact” on the economy

Note: This survey was conducted online and over the phone between February 26 and March 1, 2023

Canada’s relationship with immigration

Immigration is allowing Canada to experience the fastest population growth rate of any country in the Group of Seven. That trend is expected to continue in line with Canada’s rising immigration targets, which include welcoming 500,000 new permanent residents in 2025 in line with the Immigration Levels Plan for 2023-2025.

Note: As of 2021, census data indicates that immigrants make up 23% of Canada’s total population

This is expected to follow an immigration target of 485,000 in 2024 and a target of 465,000 this year.

According to the Nanos poll, public support for this year’s target has increased by 10% since November 2020, while “about a third” of respondents say Canada should accept fewer permanent residents and 15% of the surveyed public “wanted the country to bring in more people.”

Further establishing public support for immigration across Canada is a survey by the Environics Institute of Canada, in partnership with the Century Initiative, from October 2022. In this survey, “nearly 70% of Canadians were found to disagree or strongly disagree when asked if Canada’s immigration levels were too high.”

This was followed up by another Century Initiative report from February this year. The report, titled Public Opinion and Immigration: Maintaining Canada’s Advantage, reinforces the reality that many Canadians support immigration. This is especially true of immigration as it relates to foreign nationals from crisis-stricken nations, as 76% of Canadians believe that the country “should accept more immigrants from places experiencing major conflicts”.

This figure is an increase of 42% from 1993, making it evident that Canadians have a largely positive outlook on immigration.

Efforts to gather more public opinion on immigration

In an effort to allow Canadians even more opportunities to express their opinions and beliefs on immigration, Canada has also begun an initiative called “An Immigration System for Canada’s Future”.

This venture will allow Canadians to participate in dialogue sessions, surveys and other events for the purpose of sharing “their ideas and perspectives on how [Canada] can build a stronger, more adaptive immigration system for Canada’s future.”

This initiative, which began with a discussion session led by immigration minister Sean Fraser in Halifax last month and will continue through the spring, invites stakeholders of all kinds – including “all levels of government [as well as] businesses, academia, post-secondary institutions, settlement organizations” - to participate in these events and allow their voices to be heard.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) notes that “the input gathered [through this initiative] will inform Canada’s future immigration policies and programs and will help shape a system that will benefit communities across the country for decades to come.”

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