Liberal Immigration Minister Marc Miller told reporters on Saturday that Canada is on track to let in around 900,000 international students.
That figure is on top of the nearly 500,000 new residents admitted into Canada under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s immigration scheme and the hundreds of thousands of temporary work permits issued each year.
Economists have warned the Liberal government that current rates are unsustainable when it comes to housing and cost of living as many face challenges finding rent or affordable housing.
According to an interview with CBC’s The House, Miller responded to comments by Housing Minister Sean Fraser, who suggested that a cap on foreign student visas might be a solution worth considering.
“Just putting a hard cap, which got a lot of public play over the last few days, is not the only solution to this,” said Miller.
“Core to this is actually trying to figure out what the problem is we’re trying to solve for. It isn’t entirely housing, it’s more appropriately the integrity of the system that has mushroomed, ballooned in the past couple of years.”
Miller shifted the blame from his own government to “illegitimate actors” trying to game Canada’s immigration system such as private colleges.
Last week, Fraser, who held the immigration file prior to Miller, suggested a possible international student cap while still at the Liberal cabinet retreat.
“I think that’s one of the options that we ought to consider,” Fraser said on Monday.
“But I think we should start by trying to partner with institutions to understand what role they may play to reduce the pressure on the communities that they’re operating within.”
Although Miller has said he will examine the immigration level’s impact on housing, he has not indicated any signs that the Liberal government will revise the targets and has even gone so far as to suggest an increase to the record levels.
“I don’t see a world in which (changing the target) happens, but again, I’m going to be looking at the facts and I’m not a dogmatic person,” said Miller.
“We have to look at what that impact is, and what the impact of immigrants actually is on the housing supply.”
Criticisms of the targets have come from a wide-variety of sources, including TD Bank, which released a report saying that “continuing with a high-growth immigration strategy could widen the housing shortfall by about a half-million units within just two years.”