Canada

Last Updated on March 9, 2021

British Columbia’s exports are expected to fuel the westernmost Canadian province’s economic recovery this year even as immigration remains sluggish and the region’s tourism industry struggles due to still-high COVID-19 case numbers.

“In the long-run, Canada does have the capacity to hit the ambitious targets set out last fall and population growth from new immigration will again return as the main driver,” forecasts Royal Bank of Canada senior economist Andrew Agopsowicz.

“However, with the effects of the pandemic looking more likely to remain into the spring and summer … immigration into Canada (will remain) low throughout most of 2021.”

With Canada’s COVID-19 vaccination program expected to take until at least September to achieve herd immunity, both immigration to the country and British Columbia’s usually-strong tourism sector are expected to have a tough time of it, especially in the early and middle parts of the year.


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Exports, though, will buoy the province as economic growth in China, a strong trading partner for British Columbia is forecast to hit 8.4 per cent. 

B.C. To Enjoy Strong Economic Growth

That is expected to lead to a stronger economic recovery in British Columbia than the Canadian average this year.

“The near-term economic outlook for B.C. is broadly similar to that for Canada. Following the massive COVID-induced demand shock in 2020, the provincial economy will rebound and expand by 4.5 per cent this year, just ahead of the Canada-wide pace,” forecasts the Business Council of British Columbia.

In The Race Between The Virus And The Vaccines: B.C. Economic Review and Outlook, the business council’s chief economist and senior vice president, Ken Peacock, and vice president of policy Dr. David Williams, also forecast a provincial economic recovery that will pick up momentum next year. 

“In 2022, the B.C. economy should pick up a little more steam and grow by 4.8 per cent, in line with Bank of Canada’s expectation for Canada,” they predict. “These two years of robust growth, however, come after the steepest decline in GDP in a century. We estimate the B.C. economy contracted by about six per cent in 2020 on an average annual basis.”

As the global pandemic and the border restrictions imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19 crippled economies throughout the world, it also slowed immigration to British Columbia to a crawl.

Pandemic Hits B.C. Immigration

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s figures for last year show 43.3 per cent fewer foreign nationals became new permanent Canadian residents in British Columbia last year, only 28,470, compared to 50,230 in 2019.

Hardest hit last year in British Columbia were the business immigration programs, which include those coming to the province under the British Columbia Entrepreneur stream, the Start-Up Visa program, and the Federal Self-Employed Class.

Last year, 255 per cent fewer people became new permanent residents to Canada under business immigration programs in British Columbia than had the previous year. That was a drop of 54.2 per cent compared to 2019.

Family Sponsorship programs resulted in 8,225 fewer new permanent residents to British Columbia in 2020, a drop of 50.6 per cent from the 16,255 who had come to the province under those programs in 2019.

Economic immigration fared best but still dropped 38.8 per cent, to 18,395 from 30,060 the previous year, as those able to come to British Columbia under the Canadian Experience, Caregiver, Skilled Trade and Skilled Worker programs fell off. 

Ottawa remains firmly committed to boosting immigration again with much more ambitious targets for this year and the next two.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced late last year that Canada was going to greatly increase immigration levels to make up for the shortfall in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ottawa Bullish on Immigration

Under the new plan, Canada is planning to welcome more than 1.2 million newcomers between 2021 and 2023 with 401,000 new permanent residents to Canada in 2021, 411,000 in 2022 and 421,000 in 2023.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the previous plan set targets of 351,000 in 2021 and 361,000 in 2022.

“Immigration is essential to getting us through the pandemic, but also to our short-term economic recovery and our long-term economic growth,” said Mendicino. “Canadians have seen how newcomers are playing an outsized role in our hospitals and care homes and helping us to keep food on the table.

“As we look to recovery, newcomers create jobs not just by giving our businesses the skills they need to thrive, but also by starting businesses themselves,” he said. “Our plan will help to address some of our most acute labour shortages and to grow our population to keep Canada competitive on the world stage.

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