Nothing will undermine support for immigration faster than a government that barrels ahead without regard for public opinion.
Canada is perhaps the most pro-immigrant country in the world.
A significant portion of our population is made up of newcomers, and many Canadians are directly connected to someone who recently came to this country from elsewhere.
This is part of the reason why Canada’s immigration debate tends to be about how high the number should be, rather than about immigration itself.
For example, I would personally favour a lower immigration target than what is currently in place. Bringing in 250,000 – 350,000 would be more reasonable, especially given the current strain on many of our social programs.
In any other country, I would be seen as extremely pro-immigration.
In Canada however, any criticism of ever-expanding Liberal immigration targets gets attacked as ‘anti-immigrant,’ demonstrating how skewed the discussion in this country tends to be.
Now however, there is some change in this regard.
With the Liberals announcing higher immigration targets year after year, more people are starting to ask whether this is really good for the country.
At a time when housing is out of reach for millions of people and our healthcare system is crumbling, are massive yearly population increases the right move?
Undermining consensus by ignoring criticism
There are two schools of thought regarding the best way to maintain a consensus.
The first is the more authoritarian way, which is to quickly denounce and demonize anyone who raises doubt about current policy, thus creating a taboo around the issue and stifling further inquiry.
The second is to encourage an open sharing of opinions, believing that the consensus policy with either demonstrate it superiority through debate, or will be exposed as substandard, thus leading to a better policy.
Clearly, the Liberal government subscribes to the former view, not the latter.
And they are still ignoring reasonable and justified concerns:
“If we don’t continue to increase our immigration ambition and bring more working-age population and young families into this country, our questions will not be about labour shortages, generations from now,” Fraser said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“They’re going to be about whether we can afford schools and hospitals.”
Government claims aside, this doesn’t change the fact that Canada is now a significant outlier:
“The new immigration rates will be substantially higher than rates in similar countries, such as Australia, said University of New Brunswick political science professor Ted McDonald.
That’s not a bad thing in itself, he said. But in his view, raising immigration levels isn’t the right way to address current labour shortages.
“I think the policy would make more sense if it’s aligned with what are seen as underlying structural labour market shortages that are going to persist,” McDonald said.”
It also appears the government is dramatically increasing immigration levels without any look at the impact:
“There’s no assessment that I have seen of the impact of these targets on housing affordability and availability, no assessment of these targets in terms of additional pressures on health care,” said Andrew Griffith, a former high-ranking official at Immigration and Citizenship Canada.”
The unfortunate irony is that the more the Liberals ignore these genuine concerns, the more they try to keep discussion of immigration levels a taboo topic, the more they will undermine support for immigration.
Canadians deserve a real and open discussion of immigration levels in our country, and that discussion is the most likely way to lead to an outcome with both positive policy results and positive results in terms of national cohesion and respect for newcomers.
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