The federal government will revise its methods for counting non-permanent residents living in Canada, following a report that found there appeared to be a surplus of at least one million more of them living in the country than what official estimates claimed.
In a statement released by Statistics Canada, beginning next month they will introduce a “revised methodology” when tallying the population of non-permanent residents (NPRs).
Temporary foreign workers and international students are included as NPRs.
The change comes after the deputy chief economist at CIBC Capital Markets, Benjamin Tal, warned federal ministers that their statistics regarding the number of NPRs living in Canada had been undercounted by around one million people.
Tal spoke to ministers at the Liberals’ recent cabinet retreat in P.E.I., warning them that the discrepancy in numbers would have major consequences on Canada’s already dire housing crisis.
“The ability for governments and businesses to craft evidence-based policy options and decisions requires constant investment and attention to data sources and methods,” said Michael Wernick, who led the federal civil service as clerk of Privy Council. “I hope we won’t slide backward as operating budgets are squeezed.”
Tal’s report conservatively concluded that the number of NPRs that is “widely quoted and used for planning purposes undercounts the actual number of NPRs residing in Canada by close to one million.”
The Trudeau government has continually raised immigration targets over the past several years and is aiming to raise the annual number to half a million new permanent residents by 2025.
That target figure doesn’t include foreign students on visas or people on temporary work permits.
“The number of NPRs strongly increased in 2022. It was the first year where the number of NPRs increased faster than the number of permanent residents … and this new trend is holding true for 2023 so far,” said Melissa Gamamge, a spokesperson for Statistics Canada.
Gammage argued that data presented by Statistics Canada is reliable and that the numbers regarding the amount of NPRs living in the country “are accurate, produced using robust mechanisms and in collaboration with many stakeholders.”
Beginning on Sept. 27, Statistics Canada will publish new data tables on NPRs that have been “computed using a revised methodology and going back to 2021,” said Gammage.
“These new tables will also include more details on NPRs, such as their estimated numbers and permit types, as well as other methodological improvements.”
Gammage said the agency will also provide monthly updates, including information about administrative delays regarding visa applications.