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Immigration Minister Marc Miller delivers remarks at a press conference in Ottawa, on Dec. 21.Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press

Immigration Minister Marc Miller says he plans to control the number of temporary foreign workers coming to Canada in the new year, adding the system has “run a bit rampant for far too long.”

Mr. Miller said there is a correlation between the influx of international students and temporary workers and the housing shortage in this country.

The number of people here temporarily has “skyrocketed” over the past few years, Mr. Miller told reporters Thursday. His remarks came after a Statistics Canada release this week showed the country’s population grew by more than 430,000 during the third quarter of 2023, the fastest population growth in any quarter since 1957.

Statscan estimates Canada’s population is more than 40.5 million, with the third-quarter increase driven largely by immigration, including about 313,000 non-permanent residents. Most of the non-permanent residents came to Canada on work or study permits.

Mr. Miller said the issues of housing and an influx of temporary residents have been “increasingly tied together and there is obviously a correlation.” He said he is planning to announce reforms to tackle the influx at the start of 2024.

“I’m not trying to target individuals,” he said. “I’m trying to target the effect of a system that’s run a bit rampant for far too long and is causing an impact that is not unappreciable.”

His admission that the number of temporary foreign residents is linked to the supply of housing represents a shift in emphasis for the federal government.

“It’s clear that that does put pressure on the system and particularly our housing needs,” he said.

Temporary foreign residents enter Canada through various routes, including as international students, who then gain postgraduate work permits to stay on, or as temporary agricultural workers. Ukrainians fleeing war also fall under that category.

Earlier this month Mr. Miller announced reforms to the international student program to curb numbers – including the doubling of the amount of money applicants need to show they have to cover living expenses.

He said he plans to demand that provinces, such as Ontario, stop licensing substandard colleges offering a poor experience to international students and said he may consider refusing study permits if they do not clamp down on colleges churning out international graduates like “puppy mills.”

“As I’ve said, turning off the tap from the federal government is a pretty rough instrument and if provinces can’t get their houses in order we’re prepared to do it,” he said Thursday.

He said he is planning “further steps” to curb the numbers of foreign students in the new year.

He signalled that he may reform the postgraduate work permit system for international students, as well as the temporary foreign workers program. “Both represent increased volume that we’ve seen jump astronomically in the last few years, even when you net out the period during COVID,” he said.

“It’s something that has created some unanticipated effects and something we need to rein in. I’m prepared to do it. The government is prepared to do it, but it’s got to come with some serious conversations with the affected jurisdictions to ensure they’re doing their jobs as well.”

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