Ottawa is freezing its target for how many permanent residents it aims to welcome to Canada for 2026, keeping the number static at 500,000 in the face of shrinking public support for immigration.
The federal government has also stuck with its targets of 485,000 permanent residents for 2024, and 500,000 for 2025, and said it is preparing to adjust temporary resident admissions over the next year to ensure the number is sustainable.
Ottawa’s decision not to continue the pattern of raising its targets follows a sharp drop in public support for immigration over the past year, according to recent polling, as Canadians increasingly associate affordability and housing concerns with an influx of newcomers.
Immigration Minister Marc Miller acknowledged that housing was among the factors considered. He said to address a chronic shortage in construction workers, the government aims to bring in more skilled tradespeople from overseas to build more homes.
Speaking to reporters in Parliament after publishing the new targets, Mr. Miller said “the eyes of Canadians are more intense and focused on immigration.”
“They’re not xenophobic,” he said. “They’re asking us to get a little more organized. I think that’s what we’re trying to do today.”
A September Nanos poll for The Globe and Mail found more than half of Canadians want the federal government to accept fewer immigrants than it is planning for in 2023 – a rise from one in three respondents in March.
In last year’s Immigration Levels Plan, Ottawa announced it would welcome 465,000 new permanent residents this year, with a target of 485,000 in 2024 and another 500,000 in 2025.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said it decided to maintain the level of new permanent residents at 500,000 in 2026, to allow time for their successful integration, while continuing to support the labour market.
Mr. Miller also unveiled new francophone immigration targets to support francophone communities outside of Quebec. The targets represent 6 per cent of total immigration in 2024, 7 per cent in 2025 and 8 per cent in 2026.
“By stabilizing the number of newcomers, we recognize that housing, infrastructure planning and sustainable population growth need to be properly taken into account,” he said in a press statement.
Diana Palmerin-Velasco, a senior director at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said it is “happy to see that the government’s immigration planning will take into consideration housing, health care and infrastructure, as well as immigration planning that will better align with the labour market and regional and sectorial specific needs.”
Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, urged the government to address a shortage of talent, saying “unfilled job openings for highly skilled and educated professionals remain stubbornly high.”
“Canada benefits from the knowledge, skills and entrepreneurial spirit of highly trained immigrants, including health care professionals, engineers and computer scientists, who can help our economy grow,” he said.
The Nanos poll of 1,044 adult Canadians found a rise of almost 20 percentage points in six months in the number who think this country should accept fewer immigrants than Ottawa’s 2023 target of 465,000.
The poll was conducted both by phone and online between Sept. 2 and 4 with a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Immigration Minister Marc Miller said on Nov. 2 he plans to recalibrate the number of people who come to Canada temporarily to make sure the program is sustainable, but details about what measures the government is considering remain unclear.
The Canadian Press
On Tuesday, Mr. Miller unveiled a blueprint to better align Canada’s immigration system to the country’s needs, with changes that include a program to encourage newcomers to settle in small towns, francophone communities, rural areas and the North with a path to permanent residency there.
Permanent residents are allowed to live and work in the country indefinitely and can eventually apply for citizenship.
Former federal economist Henry Lotin, founder of consulting firm Integrative Trade and Economics, has alerted Statistics Canada that it may have been dramatically undercounting the number of temporary residents in Canada.
“Permanent residents are a small subset of the total arrivals that need housing, social services, infrastructure,” he said. “Most of the so-called temporary residents are in the first step of an immigration process, and are here to stay.”
Speaking to reporters, Mr. Miller said Canada has “become quite addicted to temporary foreign workers” including those helping to build houses.
“These people building those houses have perhaps some hope that they want to be Canadian citizens and we shouldn’t deprive them of it,” he added.
Mr. Miller says Canada needs around 100,000 construction workers, overall, to build the number of homes Canada needs to address housing shortages, and the government is looking to attract more skilled immigrants to fill the gaps.
Premier François Legault announced Wednesday that Quebec, which selects its economic-class immigrants, is also maintaining its targets.
He said the new targets will remain at 50,000 people a year for 2024 and 2025, with an extra 6,500 admissions through the Quebec Experience program, a pathway for foreign graduates and temporary workers to settle in Quebec.
The Quebec Premier said at a news conference that, with French in decline, he has a historic responsibility to protect the language. The Quebec government will make people it selects pass a French test before they are admitted. Temporary foreign workers, except those working in agriculture, will also have to pass a French test if they want to stay in the province longer than three years.
Bloc Québécois House Leader Alain Therrien challenged Mr. Miller in Parliament Wednesday about why he had not consulted Quebec on the new federal immigration targets.
Mr. Miller said his officials and he himself had been consulting Quebec about immigration. But Mr. Therrien said the Quebec government had not specifically been consulted on the new federal levels, and asked how many classrooms and teachers will be needed to accommodate children of more immigrants.
Jenny Kwan, the NDP’s immigration critic, said: “While the government’s Immigration Levels Plan document talks about ensuring newcomers can successfully resettle in Canada, there are no plans attached to make that happen.”