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'Starved for people': Canadian government announces ambitious three-year plan to increase immigration by 1.2 million

The federal government’s vision is to bring 401,000 new permanent residents in 2021; 411,000 in 2022; and 421,000 in the year 2023.
The federal government’s vision is to bring 401,000 new permanent residents in 2021; 411,000 in 2022; and 421,000 in the year 2023. - 123RF Stock Photo

At a news conference in Ottawa Oct. 30, immigration minister Marco Mendicino revealed a three-year “road map,” aiming to increase immigration numbers across Canada.

He said the federal government’s vision is to bring 401,000 new permanent residents in 2021; 411,000 in 2022; and 421,000 in the year 2023.

“Since the pandemic struck, we have put robust measures in place to protect Canadians, including border restrictions, strengthened health screening at the border, and increased quarantine compliance and enforcement efforts," said Mendicino.

A lot has changed, he said, but one thing has not: the fact that immigration is vital to Canada’s future, and COVID-19 has made that even clearer.

“Immigrants are critical to our healthcare sector and represent one in four working in our hospitals and long-term care homes," he said. "Whether they are taking care of our most vulnerable or putting food on our tables, newcomers have played an outside role in our response to COVID-19.”

The focus is on skilled workers, savouring community-based selection models (Atlantic Immigration Pilot), and attracting new immigrants into rural areas.

“Keeping families together is important, which is why we will continue to support family reunification," said Mendicino. "And we will uphold our Canadian values by broadening economic pathways to refugees with the skills to hit the ground running and maintaining our global commitment to protecting the world’s most vulnerable.”

Highlighted in the conference is the rapidly aging workforce - something that's particularly important on the East Coast - which is another driving factor for immigration. In 1971, there were roughly seven workers for every retiree. Today, there are four. By 2035, there will only be two workers for every retiring Canadian.

Mendicino said if this trend continues, “Canada will have to pay 40 per cent more for the services like health care.”

Economic growth

Immigrants own one in three Canadian businesses, like chef Joe Thottungal who briefly kicked off the conference with his success story in front of his Thali restaurant. Thottungal not only contributes to the economy, but during the pandemic helped feed the homeless in Ottawa.

“When our population grows, our economy grows, and our Canadians benefit,” said Mendicino, while acknowledging the growth of the past five years that coincides with immigration.

“This will be a project, one for the times, and opening our doors to new members of the Canadian family means opening our country to prosperity.”

COVID-19 is creating challenges for immigration and has left a backlog in processing applications, but Mendicino is optimistic and confident numbers will not be affected.

“Throughout this pandemic, we have been able to maintain safe and orderly immigration by introducing additional resources and enforcement protocols at the border. And because of that, we have been able to bring in workers and students,” he said.

When considering the benefit to Canada's economy, he pointed to international students as one key example.

“They contribute over $21.6 billion to our economy every year and deeply enrich the community and campus where they are taking their education,” he said.

Mendicino hopes international students will be inspired to stay in Canada after completion of their studies.

The plan aims to accelerate economic recovery by encouraging people to establish connections to Canada, said Mendicino.

“It means expediting and broadening the pathways to permanent residency for all.”

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