Polls in advance of Canada’s national election on Monday suggest that immigration is not a burning issue with voters there. The two leading parties take a virtually identical position: Continue to increase the number of immigrants annually.
Ruling Liberals, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have steadily bumped up levels since 2015. The government aims to further expand annual admissions from 330,800 this year to 350,000 in 2021. Conservative leader Andrew Scheer quietly concurs, saying immigration should not be “politicized.”
The totals are modest by U.S. standards, but Canada’s share of migrants is substantial in percentage terms. Where first-generation immigrants make up 13.7 percent of the U.S. population, newcomers account for 21.9 percent of Canada’s populace. Relatively speaking, Canada’s immigration intake is nine times greater than America’s.
One of Canada’s six national political parties – the People’s Party of Canada — says it’s way too much. “Both the Liberals and Conservatives support an unsustainable increase in annual immigration, and are using mass immigration as a political tool to buy votes among immigrant communities,” PPC asserts.
While Canada has long prided itself on admitting skilled and self-sufficient migrants, PPC leader Maxime Bernier notes, “Only 26 percent of all the immigrants and refugees who come to Canada every year are directly chosen because they have the right qualifications and work experience to fulfill our economic needs. The rest are dependents, come through the family reunification program or as refugees, do not work, or do not have the skills that we need even if they find work.”
Bernier also points out, “Immigrants generally have lower wages than non-immigrants. They pay on average about half as much in income taxes as other Canadians, but absorb nearly the same value of government services.”
Instead, PPC would:
- More than halve the number of immigrants and refugees to 100,000-150,000.
- Reform the point system to accept a larger proportion of economic immigrants with needed skills.
- Limit immigrants admitted via family reunification, and abolish the program for parents and grandparents.
- Reduce the number of temporary foreign workers, ensuring that they fulfill temporary positions and do not compete unfairly with Canadian workers.
- Outlaw birth tourism.
PPC poll numbers lag far behind the five other national parties. Indeed, the third-place socialist New Democratic Party (NDP), the only other party polling in double digits, wants even more immigration.
But as Donald Trump demonstrated in 2016, pundits and pollsters can be way off when it comes to gauging public support for stricter immigration enforcement. In fact, Canadians wholeheartedly share Americans’ anxiety over what are politely called “irregular” entries north of the border.
Over the first two days of early voting, some 2 million Canadians cast ballots, according to Elections Canada. That’s a 25 percent increase from the 2015 federal election, and a signal that something is motivating voters this year.
Are they chafing at Tweedledee-Tweedledum Liberals and Conservatives? Will Canada’s multiparty system move to rein in immigration, or spur even higher levels? Stay tuned for answers.