Nanos poll says Canadians would prefer lower immigration targets

Edana Robitaille
Published: September 20, 2023

A recent poll by Nanos, a public opinion research agency, shows that support for immigration is wavering in Canada.

The poll, which was conducted in partnership with the Globe and Mail, found that since March 2023, Canadians are less supportive of high immigration targets and believe that the number of international students should be limited.

The Nanos report shows that 53% of surveyed Canadians want Canada to accept fewer immigrants than the permanent resident target for 2023, which is 465,000. When asked the same question in March 2023, only 34% felt this way but the report did not specify why.

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These results are a major difference from a poll conducted by the Environics Institute in October 2022, which found that Canada has never been more supportive of immigration and refugees. It said that seven in ten Canadians expressed support for current immigration levels – the largest majority recorded on Environics surveys in 45 years.

The report credits public consensus on the importance of immigration to the country's economy, along with increasing acknowledgement that Canada needs people from other countries in order to keep its population growing.

It supports backs up the key findings of the 2022-2023 IRCC Annual Tracking survey that found approximately half (52%) of surveyed Canadians feel that the right number of immigrants are coming to Canada. Further, it found that seven in 10 (71%) said that immigration is having a somewhat or very positive effect on Canada.

Immigration Levels Plan

Canada is currently pursuing the highest-ever targets for permanent resident admissions. According to the 2023-2025 Immigration Levels Plan, IRCC hopes to welcome 465,000 new permanent residents by the end of the year. This will increase to 500,000 a year by the end of 2025.

Immigration Levels Plans are released every year by November 1 (unless it is an election year). It is not yet known what to expect in terms of targets for the 2024-2026 plan, but Immigration Minister Marc Miller has indicated he doesn’t see the targets dropping.

“I don’t see a world in which we lower [immigration targets], the need is too great … whether we revise them upwards or not is something that I have to look at but certainly, I don’t think [we will] lower them.”

He says that newcomers are key to reducing labour shortages across Canada and filling gaps left by a retiring workforce. It is expected that nine million Canadians will reach retirement age by 2030, many of them in key sectors such as healthcare and trades.

Sean Fraser, Canada’s Minister for Housing, and Infrastructure agrees. He says reducing the number of newcomers to Canada is not an instant solution to driving down costs. Speaking with CBC in July, Fraser said that continuing to build the national labour force is critical to solving the affordable housing crisis.

Canada’s lack of affordable housing

The Nanos poll has been released at a time when housing affordability is top of mind for many people in Canada.

The Environics report from 2022 found that 15% of Canadians believe newcomers are driving up home prices. The Canadian Real Estate Association shows that the average price of a house in Canada was $650,140 in August.

In a recent report by Desjardins, economists say that the supply of affordable housing in Canada can’t keep up with the demand. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) estimates that Canada needs another 3.5 million homes built by 2030 to restore housing affordability. This is in addition to the projected 18.2 million units that CMHC says will be available.

However, despite the supply and demand issues in housing, a report by the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) supports immigration as a means to improving affordability. It says the housing shortage can be attributed to a higher residential construction price, in part driven by a shortage of skilled workers.

RBC also says that without high levels of immigration to bolster the workforce, construction costs will remain high because workers are demanding higher wages. This is possible because of a shortage of skilled workers. Employers must become more appealing because workers have more options in their job hunt. A more robust workforce will increase job competition, lower the cost of production, and therefore improve affordability.

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