OTTAWA — Even as illegal refugees continue to cross the border, the Trudeau government announced Wednesday that it will continue to increase legal immigration to Canada.
The plan, announced by Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen in the House of Commons, is to hike immigration rates by 13 percent by 2020. That will translate into an additional 340,000 immigrants annually, or 0.9 percent of Canada’s population of 36.5 million people.
Hussen, himself an immigrant from Somalia, says the increased numbers are needed to compensate for Canada’s population deficit as a result of declining births. Hussen also says the growing number of retirees means fewer people are available to fill available jobs.
The level, though already being criticized as overly ambitious, is actually less than that recommended by an economic advisory council when it told the Liberal government that immigration should rise to 450,000 new Canadians annually.
Canada’s immigration policy, which is merit-based and seeks educated and high-skilled applicants, was cited as a model system by President Donald Trump during his State of the Union address.
But Canada is not without critics of strictly merit based immigration, arguing it ignores high job vacancy rates in rural areas for semi-skilled or what is termed “lower-skilled” occupations on Canadian farms and meat processing plants. Agriculure advocates note that the national vacancy rate on Canadian farms is seven percent, rising to 10 percent on mushroom farms.
“The increase is to meet Canada’s ever-growing demand for skilled labour. We will continue to wisely use immigration as a tool to power our economy,” Hussen told reporters at a Wednesday news conference. “The multi-year planning will ensure predictability and stability for provinces and cities to plan ahead and do their parts.”
Conservative immigration critic and Calgary Member of Parliament Michelle Rempel, however, was critical of the plan.
“While we acknowledge that immigration plays a vital role in the Canadian economy and social fabric, this announcement has occurred in the context of several large scale Liberal led immigration systems failures,” Rempel said in a statement released on her Twitter account. “It also occurs in the Canadian context of sluggish national economic growth, rising taxation rates, ballooning public deficits, and in the global context where migration has become one of the most significant public policy challenges facing the world today.”