Robert Gregory is a distinguished Australian economist, who at a recent academic conference had this to say about immigration policy issues in his country:
“Over the last decade, …net overseas migration added between 1 and 1.2 million people every 5 years to the Australian population (around 5% of the population stock) …As a result, the infrastructure in Sydney and Melbourne, our two major cities where immigrants largely settle, has become increasingly inadequate…The Australian current housing boom…is being generated by… low interest rates and the [fact] that Australia has more people than expected… Government and all segments of the population at large have become increasingly dissatisfied with [these problems]…Australian immigration authorities therefore have begun to reduce the granting of permanent immigration visas.”
This account of conditions in Australia pretty well describes those in Canada. Immigrants have:
· added to Canada’s population four percent over the last five years and are scheduled to add even more in coming years.
· settled mainly in Canada’s largest cities, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. More than 300 newly arrived immigrant families are settling in the Vancouver Metropolitan are EVERY WEEK.
· caused Vancouver housing costs to be the second highest of all North American cities.
· caused serious traffic congestion. Schools, recreation and other public facilities are overcrowded. Hospitals in Ontario routinely place patients in linen closets and hallways.
Public opinion surveys show that most Canadians want their government to reduce the number of immigrants.
However, the response of Canada’s government to these conditions has been much different from Australia’s. Australia has reduced immigration; Canada has increased it, to unprecedented levels of over 300,000 annually.
Canadians, including the many recent immigrants, in the country’s large cities suffer much as a result of the government’s immigration policies. Their suffering could be reduced by cutting the total annual number of immigrants to 100,000 for a limited period of time.
During this period, construction could increase the supply of housing and infrastructure facilities to eliminate the current shortages; government agents could apply their limited resources to the selection of immigrants with the greatest prospects of economic success; and information could be gathered about the number of immigrants whose demand for housing and infrastructure facilities can be met by the construction industry and financed by governments.
When politicians increase immigrants to this optimum number, they can expect to be rewarded by voters at the ballot box.
Emeritus Professor of Economics
Simon Fraser University