Development consultant calls for more immigration to boost Canada's regions

Last week, the Canadian minister for Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney said that Canada's immigration level will remain unchanged in 2012-13. The country will accept about 240-265,000 immigrants.

The opposition New Democratic Party believes that this level is not sufficient to sustain the economy and says that this level should be raised by at least 40% to 350,000 per year or more. However, Mr Kenney is confident that he has the support of the majority of Canadians. He recently posted a tweet on Twitter saying that 90% of Canadians oppose any increase in the current level of immigration.

But David Campbell, the president of Jupia Consultants, an 'economic development consulting firm' based in Moncton, New Brunswick, says that whatever Canadian public opinion may believe, without an increase in immigration, the economies of mid-sized cities, like Moncton, will be negatively affected.

Mr Campbell says that large Canadian cities such as Vancouver and Ontario have seen their immigration levels falling over recent years and are intending to reverse the trend. If they do this, and the national immigration level remains the same, then mid-sized cities like Moncton will suffer. Moncton is a city of about 140,000 inhabitants and has been growing fast in recent years.

Mr Campbell says that, since the turn of the century, the numbers of immigrants settling in cities such as Moncton have increased. Between 1997 and 2001, Moncton attracted only 8.8 immigrants per 10,000 of its population each year. This figure rose to 37.5 immigrants per 10,000 population between 2007 and 2011, an increase, he says, of 324% over the 2002-2006 period. Mr Campbell says, sarcastically, 'As a reward for this boost in foreign-born population, Mr Kenney closed the local Citizenship and Immigration Canada Office in Moncton'.

Other mid-sized cities have also been attracting more immigrants over the same period; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (population c.220,000) Regina, Saskatchewan (population c.190,000) Saint John, New Brunswick (population c.70,000), Trois Rivieres, Quebec (population c.130,000), Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, (population c.40,000) , and Fredericton, New Brunswick (population c.55,000) are also growing fast and accepting greatly increased numbers of immigrants.

Over the same period, immigration levels in Ottawa and Vancouver have fallen. The Canadian province of Ontario wants to take more control of its own immigration policy. It believes that the immigration policy of the federal government is too restrictive and that they require more immigrants in order to sustain the Ontarian economy.

The immigration minister for Ontario, Charles Sousa, said 'I've been having discussions with the government but, I must admit, it's been a one way discussion….We are trying to make the federal government listen to the needs of Ontario.'

The problem that Ontario has is that only 52% of immigrants settling in the province are workers. The rest are refugees and family members of working immigrants. The federal government has also cut the support for settlement services in Ontario.

Mr Sousa says that Ontario needs to have 70% of immigrants that settle in the state joining the workforce. He wants to double the number of people allowed to settle in the state under the Provincial Nominee Program to 2,000.

Mr Campbell says that, if Ontario succeeds in taking a greater share of immigration again, as it intends to do, 'the rest of the country's urban centres will suffer'.

Mr Campbell says, 'If the federal government sticks to its guns and holds down immigration levels, the losers could very well be Canada's mid-sized urban centres – the very communities that have been increasingly relying on immigration to foster population growth and supply labour markets.'

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