Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is looking to attract 401,000 new permanent residents next year, part of an ambitious plan to spur Canada’s economic recovery by bringing in workers.
The new targets, unveiled on Friday by Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, represent an increase of 50,000 people from the pre-Covid goal of 351,000 announced in March.
Canada’s borders remain largely closed and its economy isbracing for an end-of-year slowdown due to a resurgence of Covid-19 cases. The plan assumes a return to a normal level of international travel in 2021.
“To rebuild a stronger economy, we need to have enough workers to maintain supply chains, allow businesses to expand and create more jobs for Canadians,” Trudeau said in a press conference before Mendicino’s announcement. “Whether in long term care homes, the tech sector or local restaurants, this crisis has highlighted the important contributions that newcomers make to our communities.”
The country will further increase newcomer levels over the next three years to 411,000 in 2022, up from the previous target of 361,000, and 421,000 in 2023. Mendicino said the aim of the higher targets is to increase new admissions after the pandemic caused an immigration shortfall.
Between January and August, Canada admitted 128,430 permanent residents. If the flow returns to 2019 levels, that number will rise to 240,000, or about 70% of the target, according to an estimate from Royal Bank of Canada economist Andrew Agopsowicz. But even that might be optimistic, since borders remain closed and there are no signs of opening them amid a second wave of virus cases globally.
The increase in immigration targets along with an emphasis on getting more temporary foreign workers and international students is a welcome development, said Agopsowicz.
“Making this announcement during a time when things are so uncertain shows a strong commitment to high levels of immigration that Canada has committed to for some time,” he said by phone. That “strengthens this idea that Canada is a country that immigrants can rely on.”
With international borders closed to non-essential travel anddelays in visa processing due to a backlog from the shutdowns, the government will make it easier for international students and temporary workers already in the country to become permanent residents to drive the numbers higher.
Leah Nord, senior director of workforce strategies at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said she is particularly encouraged to see the focus on pathways for temporary immigrants.
“We have a situation in the country though the pandemic where we do have high unemployment rates but we also have vacancies,” Nord said by phone. “Immigration in particular, international students and temporary foreign workers, have an important role in filling those gaps.”
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