Canada looking to stabilize immigration levels at 500,000 per year in 2026
Government tabled new immigration targets in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
After increasing its immigration targets several times in recent years, the federal government announced Wednesday it's aiming to maintain its target of welcoming 500,000 new permanent residents in 2026.
Immigration Minister Marc Miller said the target is meant to support the labour supply while easing pressures on housing and health care.
"What Canadians are telling us, what economists are telling us, is that we have to dive into the micro-economic impacts of immigration," Miller told a press conference.
The government has steadily increased its immigration targets in recent years to boost the workforce and support an aging population.
Last year, the government released a plan to grant permanent residency to 465,000 people in 2023, a figure that's set to rise to 500,000 by 2025. The immigration target for 2015 was under 300,000.
Miller said Wednesday the government is now levelling off its planned immigration intake to see what sorts of adjustments can be made to Canada's immigration programs.
"Those numbers were needed but now we have to take a look at them, where we feel they're reasonable and plateauing in a space where we think it makes sense," he said.
"We have a lot of complex calculations that we need to make and measures we need to adjust. I think it's sometimes politically convenient to come out with a hammer-type approach… It's more on the level of finer surgery that we need to adjust."
Canada's population grew by a record 1 million people in 2022. The population also surpassed the 40 million mark earlier this year.
That population growth is coming at a time when the country is also facing a housing shortage. Almost 5.8 million new units will have to be built by the end of the decade in order to fix the housing supply, said a report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation released in September.
Miller admitted the housing shortage was a factor in the decision to level off immigration targets. He said it was not the main factor.
"If that were the sole reason, it would totally be misunderstanding the challenges I think we're facing as a country," he said.
Many experts have said that the root causes of this housing shortage are not related to immigration. Red tape and anti-development sentiment at the municipal level, for example, can lead to major delays in housing projects.
The federal government is pushing municipalities to adjust their zoning bylaws through its housing accelerator program.
Miller maintained that Canada will need to maintain immigration levels in order to provide the workers who can build houses.
Earlier this year, the government announced changes to the express entry system that would prioritize tradespeople for permanent residency. Miller said those changes have attracted roughly 1,500 tradespeople from abroad.
But Phil Triadafilopoulos, a political science professor who specializes in immigration at the University of Toronto, said high levels of immigration will still put pressure on the housing market.
"I don't know whether pausing at a historically high level of immigration is really going to do much to ease affordability issues around housing," he told CBC News. "Those pressures are going to persist, I think."
The government's target for economic immigrants is holding steady at 60 per cent of total immigration, according to the new plan.
Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, said the government should boost that portion to 65 per cent.
"Unfilled job openings for highly skilled and educated professionals remain stubbornly high. If not addressed with urgency and ambition, this shortage of leading talent will have a large and lasting impact on Canadian technological innovation, labour productivity and capital investment," he said in a media statement.
Jenny Kwan, the NDP's immigration critic, said the Liberals' plan lacks transparency.
'While the government's immigration levels plan document talks about ensuring newcomers can successfully resettle in Canada, there are no plans attached to make that happen. Once again, it's all talk and not action," she said in a media statement.
AUTHOR Darren Major CBC Journalist
Darren Major is a senior writer for CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.