Opening the gate: immigration and prosperity

By Jeremy Woo

The great gate of Canadian immigration is creaking to a close as the federal government continues its heavy-handed tactics to keep hardworking prospective Canadians from entering the country.

From the first three months of 2010 to the first three months of 2011, immigration to Canada dropped by 25 per cent according to the Toronto Star, thanks to stricter policies set in place by former immigration minister Jason Kenney, who has also been Calgary Southeast’s MP since 1997. During his tenure as immigration minister, Kenney placed a cap on skilled worker immigrants, shut down family reunification immigration, and reformed Canada’s immigration point system to strangle the flow of immigrants to a mere trickle. Kenney’s new position comes as an about-face given his previous reputation as a bridge-builder to new immigrant communities.

Unfortunately, overzealous government gatekeepers are not considering the facts about immigration. While immigrants do require some settlement costs and services, all Canadians are able to reap the many benefits of accepting future citizens to the country, chiefly in terms of economic growth.

A boost in Canada’s economic output would enhance prosperity for many Canadians. University of Toronto economist Peter Dungan forecasted in The Globe and Mail that an increase in 100,000 immigrants would result in a 2.3 per cent increase in real gross domestic product over 10 years. This is a staggering economic boost worth almost $40 billion to the Canadian economy.

Immigrants arrive in Canada and contribute to the economy by providing valuable skills in sectors with labour shortages. Skilled tradespeople and labourers from abroad would reduce pricey and unproductive turnover costs for corporations and boost Canada’s productivity. Immigrants start businesses and create jobs for all Canadians. Tax revenues would rise proportionately. The size of Canada’s proverbial economic pie would swell and improve Canada’s economic fortunes.

Immigrants do not simply bring new labour and economic clout — they also bring new ideas to Canada. According the report “Immigrants as Innovators: Boosting Canada’s Global Competitiveness” by the Conference Board of Canada, immigrants are sources of innovation for Canadians. According to the report, 35 per cent of university research chairs in Canada are held by immigrants. This is significant, considering that foreign-born residents of Canada makeup only 20 per cent of the general population according to a 2009 census by the Canadian government. Innovative ideas in technology and natural resources are vital to Canada’s economic success story, and immigrant minds play an important role.

Immigrants also bring their contacts and connections. The aforementioned Conference Board of Canada report states that Canada could experience a significant increase in the value of Canadian exports with an increase in immigration. The study suggests that a one per cent increase in immigration would result in a 0.1 per cent increase in the value of Canadian exports, thanks to increased international trade links that new Canadians offer the nation’s business sector.

Furthermore, Canadians will benefit from an increase in international imports. Though many immigrants are successfully integrated into Canadian life, they still represent diverse cultures and yearn for creature comforts from home. Immigrants stimulate the market for foreign products, which enriches the quality of life for Canadians and opens opportunities for the economy to expand. It also provides all Canadians with unique curries, British sweets, good sushi, falafel and everything in between.

The federal government has been covertly closing the gate to thousands of would-be Canadians whilst endlessly promoting an ineffective economic policy. Thousands of immigrants could be contributing to the Canadian economy and diversifying our sources of prosperity, technological innovation and culture. Immigrants encourage demand for new products, open new markets and have access to international trade networks across the globe. Immigrants add to Canada’s distinct multicultural society and improve the quality of life for all Canadians.

By closing the door on immigrants, Canadians are missing economic opportunities that would last for generations. For the sake of all Canadians, let us collectively wedge our boots into the great gate of immigration and keep the doors of economic and cultural prosperity open.

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