Immigration to Canada is set to increase over the next three years to 340,000 people a year by 2020 under the federal Liberal government’s new multi-year approach to admissions planning.
The immigration plan released Wednesday will see immigration levels climb from 300,000 people a year this year to 310,000 in 2018 and 330,000 in 2019.
The increases will bring immigration to Canada to nearly 1 per cent of the population – a figure that many have cited as necessary for the Canadian economy to remain competitive as it confronts the realities of an aging workforce and declining birth rate.
On the other hand, however, it stops well short of setting a path towards 450,000 newcomers a year as recommended by the government’s influential economic advisory council in a report last year.
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said he believes the mix and targets are the right one for Canada, right now.
“Bringing a newcomer to Canada is half of the job; we have to make sure people are being given the tools they need to succeed once they get here,” Hussen told a news conference.
“We have to make sure we have the absorptive capacity, we have to make sure that our partners on the ground with the settlement and integration processes that they engage in every day have the tools necessary so they can plan ahead, so they can adjust to the numbers.”
The switch to a longer-term planning approach marks a major pivot for the federal government, which has for decades relied on setting annual targets each year.
Hussen said the change comes after listening to people who complained that the system doesn’t work properly as it is currently structured.
“Provinces, municipalities, service providers, employers, everyone in Canada has been saying we need multi-year – we can’t keep doing immigration on a one-year basis,” he said. “We need long-term planning, we need predictability, we need stability and we need to plan ahead.”
The biggest increase in newcomers will be in programs designed to lure skilled labour to Canada. This year, the target had been to admit 172,500 people in the economic program. That number will jump to 195,800 by 2020.
The high benchmark for refugee resettlement set in 2016 by the Liberals Syrian program – nearly 60,000 refugees and protected persons were admitted that year – isn’t being repeated.
Instead, by 2020, admissions in that category will rise from a planned 40,000 this year to 48,700.