The Globe and Mail has published a significant excerpt from Doug Saunders‘ new book “Maximum Canada.” Mr Saunders is, it should be noted, a significant proponent of increased immigration and he does not believe that any ongoing Muslim migration poses much of a security threat. I, personally, often find a lot with which I can disagree with Mr Saunders on many topics but on this one, on the need for a bigger, better Canada, I am mostly in agreement … but the devil, as they say, is in the details, and I fear that Mr Saunders and I may part company on some of them.
His argument is clear. “Our population problem,” he says “becomes tangible only when you set out to do certain things that require an audience, a market, or the support of an institution or medium that only a populous country can provide. Then you discover that there’s just not enough Canada … [because] … If you’re an entrepreneur seeking venture capital, an activist fighting for better public services, or a professional searching for the best credentials, you have probably, at some point, run up against the limits of Canada’s population, currently sitting at about 35 million. Same if you’re an artist or writer looking for an audience big enough to provide you with a living, a band-council leader hoping to make your community’s next generation independent and well-educated, an online entrepreneur seeking Canadian clicks, a mayor hoping to fill your city with decent public transit, or an environmentalist seeking a big shift to green technology in energy and transportation.” That is a hard economic fact, one that limits Canadians, whether born here or recently arrived from overseas, and which means that “For many individual Canadians, the first visible reality of underpopulation is the discovery that you need to leave the country to succeed in your career, your education or your craft. At least three million Canadians live abroad – almost one in 10 of us. This shouldn’t be seen strictly as a net loss; even in a fully equipped country, it’s admirable to use the wider world to expand yourself. The problem, in Canada, is that there’s often no other way: The audiences, markets, clusters of expertise are often located somewhere else, somewhere with more people.“
Mr Saunders provides some historical context: “In most of the decades from 1850 to 1950, a time when tens of millions of ambitious people flooded out of Europe and Asia for the New World, Canada experienced a net migratory loss. By the end of the Second World War, Canada had attracted 6.7 million immigrants, but had lost 6.3 million Canadians – generally our more educated and successful citizens – who emigrated to other countries, mainly the United States … [because] … The “minimizing” politics of Canada’s first century of Confederation – a mutually reinforcing set of policies that restricted North American trade, maintained imperial resource-economy ties, limited much immigration beyond the British and the rural, valued farming over commerce, treated Indigenous peoples as problems rather than partners, and discouraged entrepreneurship – worked to keep the country’s population growth extremely limited. This was true even during the official immigration drives of the 1870s and 1930s, both of which failed … [and] … We are still struggling with the legacy of that past. It has left us with cities that sprawl rather than concentrate, with Indigenous, francophone and minority populations still recovering from more than a century of subjugation, with poor rates of business creation, with major companies that depend on subsidies rather than markets – and with a level and density of population inadequate to create the markets and institutions this century will require.” I think that’s all a fair and valid critique of policies that were both Conservative and Liberal.
“On the most basic level, population doesn’t matter,” Doug Saunders says, as I agree, because … “Having more people does not by itself make a country more successful … [rather] … the issue is one of capacity. Do we have the right people, in the right numbers, concentrated closely enough together in the right places, to do the things together that we want and need to do? Given our huge geographic expanse, our widely dispersed communities and our wavering dependence on larger, foreign markets, do we have a sufficiently high density of taxpayers, consumers, audiences, inventors, specialists, investors, elders and healers, entrepreneurs, caregivers, scholars, activists and leaders to create the things we need to sustain our standard of living through a potentially difficult future? … [and he says that] … There are several crucial ways to look at our population. We can look at it as a market – that is, as people who will consume the goods and services created by other people, allowing their enterprises to succeed. As taxpayers – people of working age who can provide a fiscal base that will support public institutions and infrastructure, in great enough numbers to keep tax rates reasonable. As a labour force – people whose skills and strengths can be put to work, in sufficient numbers to make enterprises thrive. As an audience – people who consume and support the information services, the cultural and media institutions and the online resources of the country. As clusters of expertise – groups of skilled and educated people who work closely together, sharing knowledge, opportunities and funding, in order to create new products, services and scientific advances. Finally, as cities – pools of people living closely together and sharing resources …[ and, while] … At the moment, we have enough people to make things function reasonably well in many of these areas. But if we examine each of these population groupings and their ambitions, we start to see the capacity that is missing, the potential that is untapped or unavailable, and the missing human resources that leave us unprepared for a more challenging future.”
Mr Saunders does some analysis of demographic data and then, using Conference Board of Canada models, comes up with two projections …
… the first (on the left) says that if Canada has an aggressive immigration policy we will have a population of 100,000,000 by the year 2100 (three times as many as in 2000) and that a higher population will, fairly quickly, beginning in, say, 15 years, produce higher and fast growing prosperity.
Mr Saunders and I both favour the aggressive immigration policy that will being in more people more quickly but, he says, there are some potential problems: “A sustainable population,” for example, “does not mean spreading people across the land, as we did in our first century. It means creating strong and tight-knit urban communities that flourish within existing greenbelts, where towns participate in clusters of knowledge and innovation, where thriving centres of higher learning, technology and specialization take shape, and where smart growth provides better stewardship and protection of the environment, allowing, even, for an expansion of wild and agricultural lands.” This will change the face of Canada …
… the economic (and population) “balance of power” will shift faster and farther away from Old Canada (Atlantic Canada and Quebec) and towards New Canada (Ontario and the West) exacerbating regional (and linguistic) tensions that already exist. Montreal will become less and less French and, like Toronto, a truly polyglot city … no matter what the Québécois pure laine want. Immigrants will concentrate where the opportunities are best and that is in large urban centres, which includes Montreal, and the most successful urban centres will be those that adapt best to an influx of new, talented, well educated, entrepreneurial Canadians for whom English is the working language of choice. Expanding cities and their suburbs will intensify the need to settle First Nations’ land claims … for one and for all. That will be costly but it will be, almost certainly, worth it.
“We’re no longer importing farmers, fishers, lumberjacks and assembly-line workers,” Mr Saunders explains. Instead … “The people who come to Canada tend to be, on average, more talented and knowledgeable than the people who were born here: Immigrants, despite starting out poor, are twice as likely as the Canadian-born to have a university degree … [but] … that talent is often wasted. A 2012 study by the Library of Parliament found that a mere 24 per cent of immigrants (including long-term immigrants) educated in a regulated profession were working in the field for which they had been trained, compared to 62 per cent of similarly educated Canadians … [and, while] … That’s partly because Canada has significant labour shortages in unskilled and semi-skilled fields, which require less linguistic fluency than do the professions … it’s also because many foreign professional credentials, licences, advanced degrees – not to mention trade experience – are not recognized by our professional colleges, licensing boards, government authorities, unions and trade organizations. There have been small steps to reform the credential-upgrading and recognition system, but Canada’s approximately 500 credentialling bodies remain woefully behind their international counterparts in recognizing foreign skills. Canada,” he says, and I agree, “can’t afford to waste entire generations of talent as it expands its population. Aside from driving up the costs of social services (thus making immigration more expensive), the wasted-generation effect is depriving Canada of the expertise and knowledge it needs right now. The Conference Board forecasts that by 2020 Canada will have a skilled-labour shortage of close to a million people … [thus] … There is no point tripling the population if, in the process, we greatly increase the proportion of Canadians in poverty, dependent on social assistance, or forced to give up their life’s ambition. We need to develop a much more co-ordinated immigration and settlement system aimed at connecting people and their skills to the considerable – and evolving – needs of Canada’s economy.” But there are real difficulties. No one would fail to recognize that a doctor or engineer from, say Hong Kong or Singapore or from New Delhi or Mumbai or Shanghai or Beijing probably has an easy to certify “equivalency” to say a similar degree from the University of Saskatchewan or Memorial University. But what about a degree from a university in, say, Urumqi in North West China, or from Peshawar in Pakistan or Bandar Abbas in Iran, or, or, or … are those graduates really ready to open a medical practice or undertake a residency in Canada? Are they ready to approve plans for a bridge or a building? It is not racist to ask that question, and it is not unreasonable for provincial “credentialling bodies” to be cautious about standards.
Doug Saunders concludes by saying that “It is therefore worth asking: If the time has come for Canada to train its sights on institutional reform, infrastructure expansion and policy reassessment, why shouldn’t we also make plans to build a population commensurate with those ambitions and resources? The changes we need to undertake in order to maintain and empower a Canada of 35 million will be far easier to bring about, and yield far greater benefits, if they are applied to a population that is gradually growing to a larger and more self-sufficient scale by the end of the century … [and] … With that population – and by instituting the reforms needed to create it – Canada promises to become a place with the tools and resources to do many things better, more fairly, more cleanly and more co-operatively: a more comfortable, and more intensely Canadian version of the Canada we know.“
Canada is not, according to the OECD, especially “heavy” in foreign born residents …
… we have smaller shares than Australia and New Zealand although larger than the USA, the UK and Italy. So we have room for more. Thus far our immigration system has worked quite well … it is, generally, colour blind and the points system works for Canada.
It is important vital to separate immigration policy from refugee policy. I believe that Canada, as a rich, sophisticated, developed country, has a moral duty to do more and then even more again to help those who must flee their homes in genuine fear of life and limb … I do not believe that bringing refugees to Canada is always or even often the best way to help. We may have bought 40,000 Syrian refugees to Canada since 2015 but what about the 185,000 refugees in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, or the 80,000 in the Zaatari camp in Jordan? Our policy would be been better, more generous, kinder (albeit less photogenic) had we helped those countries to care for the masses of refugees they already have and had we actually done something (anything) more to help end the crises that make people into refugees in the first place. Canadians want to be and, by and large, are a generous people who want to help those in need. Governments need to channel that generosity of spirit into the most practical models for helping refugees.
Our immigration system has (when refugees and humanitarian concerns are left aside) two major components:
- Economic immigration; and
- Family status immigration.
Both matter, both are beneficial and one reinforces the other.
The points stem which Canada uses is sensible and fair. It assigns points for:
- language ability;
- work experience; and
- other factors …
… score enough points and avoid being disqualified for e.g. a criminal record and you’re welcome here because you are very likely to become a productive, prosperous, peaceful Canadian.
Once you’re here, with you wife and kids you will, naturally, miss you parents … even your mother-in-law, and you will, naturally and normally, wish to bring them here. Canada, again sensibly, makes that easy and it is generally beneficial because the parents and siblings of successful immigrants rarely require public support (welfare) and often become productive themselves or actually increase the productivity of the immigrant family by sharing the chores of family support. It is the custom in many countries for grandparents to manage the family home and children while both adult parents work hard.
My only problem with the current system is that I’m afraid that it bends over backwards to be fair and colour blind when, in fact, we ought to be a bit selfish and a bit altruistic at the same time. We should select most immigrants from source countries that have the better records of success in Canada, and we should, equally, avoid taking, for example, doctors, engineers and teachers from, say, Angola, Belize, Chad, Djibouti and Ecuador because they need them more than we do … we can get plenty from China, India and the Philippines and, indeed, South Korea and the UK and USA, too.
My belief, based on observation, is that most Canadians are quite happy to see increased immigration from China (and East Asia in general), India (but less so from Pakistan) and the Philippines because they actually know people from those groups and the general sense is that those countries provide hard working, peaceful, sophisticated immigrants who become good, productive, mainstream Canadians. There is, I have no doubt, a bit of racism in Canada ~ especially in people over 60 ~ which, I suspect increases if you live in or near a high-crime area ~ which too often means an area with many visible minorities. As a general rules crime and poverty and poor education are tightly related. Immigrant communities that place a very high values on education (that would include, especially, the Chinese and Indians) or opportunity (the Filipinos) tend to have better educations and better jobs and, therefore, are less likely to turn to crime.
I would like to see a large increase in immigration resources applied to China, India and the Philippines (and to Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, too) so that queues and wait times are shorter and shorter, even if that means fewer resources can be applied to Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and South West Asia and, perforce, their queues and wait times must grow longer.
We need lots and lots of new Canadians; Doug Saunders is quite right. Our system is OK even good … but could use some tweaking. One other tweak it could use is to drop all the regional (provincial nominee) programmes because they attempt to restrict the mobility of rights of new Canadians ~ there should be one, single, Canada wide immigration system that allows the new Canadian to decide where (s)he wishes to settle.