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Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum holds a press conference during the Concordia Summit in New York on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The federal government's own internal polling contradicts the Immigration Minister's claim that Canadians are clamouring for increased immigration.

John McCallum told reporters last week that "almost all" of the Canadians he met with during consultations this summer told him to boost Canada's immigration targets.

However internal polling conducted by Mr. McCallum's department found Canadians are just fine with the current targets, even though most people had no idea how many immigrants currently come to Canada each year.

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Mr. McCallum recently said that he wants to substantially increase the number of immigrants that Canada welcomes each year as a way of dealing with the demographic challenges facing the Canadian economy. He said he is lobbying his cabinet colleagues to support such a move. The results of those discussions will be revealed in November when Ottawa announces its 2017 immigration targets.

When survey respondents were told that over the last few years, approximately 250,000 new immigrants came to Canada each year, 59 per cent said that was about the right number. A quarter of respondents – 25 per cent – said that was too many, while 8 per cent said that was too few.

The detailed survey conducted by Harris/Decima at a cost of $83,487 explored the views of Canadians on a wide range of immigration issues facing the current government.

The survey was conducted in two waves. The first involved 1,512 people and was conducted Nov. 18-24, 2015. The second wave was conducted Jan. 7-14, 2016, and surveyed 1,500 people. The margin of error is listed as plus- or minus-2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

"The direction in which I would like to go is to increase substantially the number of immigrants," Mr. McCallum said in a speech last month to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Manila, Philippines. "I think we need immigrants because we're aging, because we have labour shortages. And so that is the direction in which we are heading now."

During that speech, Mr. McCallum acknowledged that the government would have some convincing to do in terms of the views of Canadians.

"I think with our mindset of welcoming newcomers in the beginning, with the facts of the labour shortages, aging population, we have a good case to make, and I think we will be able to convince a higher proportion of Canadians that this is the right way for Canada to go," he said.

A Nanos Research survey of 1,000 Canadians conducted for The Globe and Mail in August found 39 per cent said the government should accept fewer immigrants in 2017 than the previous year. Thirty-seven per cent said Canada should accept the same amount in 2017, while only 16 per cent said the target should be increased.

The government's 2016 immigration plan had a target of about 300,000 immigrants, which was up from recent years.

Conservative MP and immigration critic Michelle Rempel said the government needs to provide a detailed plan of what it has in mind.

"I don't know how they're pulling this policy together. It seems very haphazard," she said.

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