Canada Housing Minister and former Immigration Minister Sean Fraser has hinted that the federal government may consider changes to the country’s historically high immigration levels targets.
“When we look to the future of immigration levels planning, we want to maintain ambition and immigration, but we want to better align our immigration policies with the absorptive capacity of communities that includes housing, that includes health care, that includes infrastructure,” Sean Fraser told Vassy Kapelos in an interview on CTV’s Question Period.
Elaborating on the proposal detailed above, Fraser mentioned how the federal government has “some work to do” with its temporary immigration programs, which operate in an “uncapped way” based on demand.
This does not mean that the number of newcomers need to be necessarily reduced, however.
Rather, the federal government needs to give careful consideration to the immigration targets in consultation with other levels of governments (as the decision on which institutions are welcoming international students lies within the provincial domain) and institutions that have “a duty to play part of a role in housing the people who come here.”
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Fraser also argued that this immigration review should not be Canada’s sole focus, but should go hand-in-hand with efforts to increase housing supply to address current housing challenges.
“It’s important that when we’re looking at the answer to our housing challenges, we also focus on what we can do to increase the supply.”
“I think it’s essential that we remember that immigration remains one of Canada’s strongest competitive advantages in the global economy.”
Canada’s current targets – which are historical in scale, looking at welcoming an estimated 500,000 newcomers per year till 2025 – were introduced by Fraser last year, when he was still Canada’s Minister of Immigration.
While the original reason for these targets, according to Fraser, was Canada’s economic prosperity by filling in labour shortages, several experts in the fields of academia, banking, and politics have since warned the federal government that the country’s high-growth immigration strategy is causing the current housing crisis.
For example, the CTV news report covering this story details how a TD report from July estimated that if the current immigration strategy continues, Canada’s housing shortfall could potentially widen by half a million units in just two years.
Another example of experts urging Canada to cut down immigration numbers comes from The Globe and Mail columnist Tony Keller, who – highlighting a deterioration in the international student immigration system – suggested putting a cap on the number of international students coming to Canada.
Fraser has hinted support for a similar suggestion in the past, but in his interview on Sunday he said that he still prefers to welcome “significant numbers” of international students “because the program is good for Canada, both in the short term and the long term when you create a pipeline of potential new citizens.”
According to him, all levels of government need to ensure that international students are supported and are absorbed into the communities they live in.
“If we were going to shift the way that we operate, to set a target or to align the numbers with the housing capacity, it’s a monumental change in the way that Canada does immigration,” he said.
“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. But it does mean if we’re seeking to make a permanent change to the way that Canada’s immigration laws operate, we have to do it right.”