As the debate around Canada’s immigration targets continues to be a hot topic, Canada’s federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller himself acknowledged that the current level of temporary foreign workers and international students has grown at a rate that is unsustainable, going as far as to say the system is “out of control” as he vowed to look further into it.
“It’s something we are going to look at in the first quarter, first half of this year,” said Miller during an interview on CTV’s Question Period last week.
“That volume is really disconcerting. It’s really a system that has gotten out of control.”
This was also the issue of a CBC Calgary live town hall that aired Thursday. Immigration lawyer Raj Sharma, who was one of the panelists, believes that international students have been dealt a raw deal.
“International students went from heroes to zeros,” said Sharma, who noted that a pilot program was launched by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to allow international students to work beyond the previous limit of a 20-hour work week in 2022.
“All of a sudden the international students are responsible for some sort of housing affordability and access.”
While Immigration Minister Marc Miller did acknowledge the problem, he shifted the blame away from Ottawa and onto the provincial governments.
“It’s a conversation we need to have with the provinces so that provinces not doing their jobs reign in those numbers on a pure volume basis,” said Miller.
Miller announced Monday that the feds would be capping the number of international student visa permits issued, reducing them by 35% over the next two years.
The subject has been a popular talking point for some time now, including at an Economic Club of Canada meeting earlier this month where Beata Caranci, chief economist at TD Bank, gave a rather blunt perspective on the issue.
“Frankly, I’m surprised we have screwed it up because we are so privileged in Canada. We don’t have two million people crashing our borders like they do in the United States, we don’t have to fight that battle,” said Caranci.
“We’re not dealing with this migrant flow across the border…we design our own policy, we put it in place, we implement it, and we still screwed it up.”
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has been sounding the alarm on the problem for some time now, promising that, if elected, he would tether the number of immigrants coming in to the number of houses being built and availability of healthcare resources and job opportunities.
However, Poilievre won’t confirm whether this calculation could reduce the current immigration targets.
International students often feel like they are caught in the middle of the dispute, University of Calgary student union vice-president Mateusz Salmassi told CBC News.
“Any time immigrants are caught in the middle of a debate around whether there are enough resources in a country, it tends to spell not so good news for the immigrants,” said Salmassi.
“We contribute $3.7 billion in tax revenue alone and we work in key industries that Canada really needs if we’re going to get out of some of the affordability crisis that we’re facing,” he added.
University of Alberta political scientist Reza Hasmath said linking the issue of immigration to affordable living has been political fodder for ages.
“If you look at other jurisdictions, this happens all the time,” said Hasmath. “It’s always easier to point to the immigrants: ‘They’re the reasons we’re not having affordability.’ Especially during political election season. It’s an easy group to target.”
However, Hasmath noted that the Trudeau government is not without culpability in this growing problem, calling its lack of action on this front a “strategic mistake.”
“They didn’t realize just how intricately linked housing and immigration is … this is a political issue they’re going to have to deal with and they’re going to do a terrible job because they don’t have the time to deal with it in an effective way.”