Source: Facebook

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada has seen a “massive spike” in temporary immigration that has grown at a rate “far beyond” what the country has “been able to absorb.” 

The prime minister made the remarks at a housing announcement in Halifax on Tuesday. 

Trudeau revealed a new $6 billion program on Tuesday called the “Canada Housing Infrastructure Fund” meant to increase new home building, as well as to upgrade existing supports like waste and water infrastructure. 

A reporter asked if the government would be dialling back temporary immigration to quell the housing crisis, both in terms of affordability and supply. 

Trudeau responded by acknowledging that existing policies have led to unsustainably high numbers of newcomers. 

“It’s really important to understand the context around immigration. Every year we bring in about 450,000, now close to 500,000, permanent residents a year, and that is part of the necessary growth of Canada. It benefits our citizens, our communities, it benefits our economy,” said Trudeau.

“However, over the past few years we’ve seen a massive spike in temporary immigration, whether it’s temporary foreign workers or whether it’s international students in particular that have grown at a rate far beyond what Canada has been able to absorb.” 

Trudeau then cited how temporary immigrants only made up 2% of Canada’s population seven years ago, but now account for 7.5%.  

“To give an example, in 2017, 2% of Canada’s population was made up of temporary immigrants. Now we’re at 7.5% of our population comprised of temporary immigrants,” he said. 

Trudeau acknowledged that the time had come for his government to get those numbers back under control. 

“That’s something that we need to get back under control, both for the benefits of those people because international students we’re seeing increasingly vulnerable to mental health challenges, to not being able to thrive and get the education they want. But also increasingly more and more businesses relying on temporary foreign workers in a way that is driving down wages in some sectors.”

He then said that by holding the line on immigration, Canadian communities would begin to feel less pressure in the future.

“So we want to get those numbers down, it’s a responsible approach to immigration that continues on our permanent residents as we have, but holds the line a little more on the temporary immigration that has caused so much pressure in our communities.”

Trudeau’s acknowledgement appears to reflect the sentiment felt by many Canadians in general as half of Canadians now agree that immigration levels are too high. 

A recent Leger survey conducted for the Association for Canadian Studies and the Metropolis Institute found that the amount of Canadians who shared that sentiment in January 2023 was only about 21%, revealing a dramatic change in opinion in just over a year. 

Canada welcomed around one million new temporary and permanent immigrants in 2022, which ultimately brought the country to a record high population of 40 million. 

This prompted the Trudeau government to announce last November it would be capping Canada’s annual new permanent resident target at 500,000, beginning in 2026. This does not include temporary residents, such as temporary foreign workers and international students.

Of those 50% of Canadians who believe the current immigration levels are too high, 39% believe that it’s harming housing prospects. Within that same cohort, 21% said they felt that immigrants are “draining the system.”

Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem said that Canadian rents would probably have started to decrease if not for the Liberal government’s record-high immigration targets in a speech last year. 

“Canada’s housing supply has not kept up with growth in our population, and higher rates of immigration are widening the gap,” said Macklem while speaking at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel on Dec. 15.

Last month, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation released a report explaining that it would take an additional 4.4 million homes to get the real estate market back to some semblance of affordability.