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Growing number of Canadians believe immigration levels too high: survey

By Megan DeLaire, Writer

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    Toronto, Ontario (CTV Network) — A growing proportion of Canadians is sharing the belief that the current rate of immigration to Canada is too high, citing concerns about how newcomers might impact the availability of affordable housing.

This is one of the main findings of the latest Focus Canada public research survey conducted by the Toronto-based Environics Institute, the results of which were published in a report on Monday.

The finding reflects a dramatic shift since last year, when public support for immigration numbers stood at an all-time high. That high water mark capped a rising trend in favour of immigration that stretched back three decades, according to Environics.

“Canadians are still more likely to disagree than agree that immigration levels are too high, but the gap between these two opposing views has shrunk over the past 12 months, from 42 percentage points to just seven,” the report reads.

SHIFT COINCIDES WITH HOUSING ANXIETY This perspective shift has taken place across multiple segments of the population, the report states, but especially in Ontario and British Columbia, as well as among top income earners and first-generation Canadians.

It comes as Canadians report less satisfaction “with the direction of the country” and more pessimism about the state of the economy, according to the report, which cites inflation and the cost of living, along with housing affordability and interest rates, as the top issues facing the country.

Recent polling by Nanos Research also bears this out. Earlier in October, the firm revealed housing has become the second highest issue of concern among Canadian voters, closely following inflation.

Nanos’ September survey found that the proportion of Canadians who think the country should bring in fewer immigrants had risen from 40 per cent in 2020 to 53 per cent as of September.

Against the backdrop of this shifting public sentiment, Canada reached a new milestone in 2023 when the country’s population surpassed 40 million people. The number of people living in this country rose by more than one million in 2022, and Statistics Canada reports 98 per cent of that growth came from net international migration.

Amid this growth, paired with what many experts have labelled a housing crisis, the federal government is grappling with whether its current immigration targets are sustainable.

Last year, Ottawa said it aimed to admit 500,000 permanent residents annually by 2025. Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marc Miller is expected to reveal whether Canada plans to maintain that target when he releases the Immigration Levels Plan on Wednesday. On Tuesday, ahead of that release, Miller will unveil the Strategic Immigration Review report and a plan to improve Canada’s immigration system.

IMMIGRANTS STILL VALUED One thing Environics’ research demonstrates hasn’t changed is what Canadians think about immigrants themselves, or their contributions to their communities and the country.

Many Canadians say they value the presence of immigrants in their local community and see benefits resulting from the multicultural diversity they bring, as well as their contribution to the economy and jobs. According to the report, immigration now accounts for virtually all of Canada’s net labour force growth.

“Few believe that immigrants make their community a worse place, and even within this group the perceived impact of newcomers on housing does not emerge as a principal complaint,” the report reads.

“This suggests that Canadians’ recent concerns about immigration’s effect on housing is more a function of national and regional media narratives about a housing crisis than locally-based developments and direct experience.”

METHODOLOGY The Focus Canada survey is based on telephone interviews conducted via landline and cell phones with 2,002 Canadians between Sept. 4 and 17, 2023. A sample of this size drawn from the population produces results accurate to within plus or minus 2.2 percentage points in 19 out of 20 samples.

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