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In its well-meaning effort to encourage the migration of international students to Canada, the Trudeau government is turning swaths of our postsecondary education system into a grift.

As a result, broad public support for immigration, the foundation stone of multicultural Canada, is eroding.

My colleague Marie Woolf has been investigating and reporting on the flood of international students – there are now more than a million – who have been coming into Canada in recent years. Many of these students get a sound education, land good jobs and eventually become valued Canadian citizens.

But others show up at so-called puppy mills: pop-up private colleges noticeably lacking in academic rigour or, for that matter, much in the way of classrooms or teachers.

They are here as much for the work permit as for an education, and to leverage that work into permanent-resident status. This is a reasonable hope, since the Liberals have vastly increased the number of permanent residents being admitted to this country, from 260,400 in 2014, to a projected 500,000 next year.

But not everyone lands a spot through the regular stream. And so many of these students make asylum claims.

This is so wrong.

There may be students who, after studying in Canada, fear persecution when they return to their home country. Maybe they are LGBTQ. Maybe they come from a country such as Haiti, where already grim conditions have become even worse.

But many are simply seeking to stay here while their claim works its way through a system that is already so overwhelmed some claimants are living in homeless shelters or on the street and it can take several years before the Immigration and Refugee Board reaches a final decision on an application.

The worst thing about all this? The Liberals’ immigration policies have accomplished the very opposite of what they intended: They have undermined support for immigration.

Poll after poll after poll reports that an increasing number of Canadians now believe there are too many immigrants coming into Canada. To cite just one example: An Environics Institute study showed that the share of the population who believe there are too many immigrants coming into Canada rose from only 27 per cent in 2022 to 41 per cent in 2023.

(The survey involved telephone interviews of 2,002 Canadians conducted Sept. 4-17, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.)

The federal government is moving, belatedly, to place caps on international-student migration. But we have entered the whack-a-mole phase of this government, in which each new policy seeks to correct for past failures.

Because Canada’s aging society needed young workers, and because, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put it, “diversity is our strength,” the Liberals began ratcheting up the intake of both permanent residents and temporary foreign workers soon after they came into office. This was, in principle, the right thing to do.

But they went too far, too fast and with too few guardrails. The result was the worst housing crisis in the G7, as millions of newcomers competed with those already here for a place to call home.

To compensate, last week’s budget poured billions of dollars into supports for housing. But with the federal budget already deeply in the red, Chrystia Freeland had to find new revenue, so the Finance Minister hiked the tax on capital gains.

The increased taxes will further suppress productivity growth, and, as a TD Economics analysis of the budget observed, “Canada’s productivity has been abysmal.”

Maybe the next budget will dedicate itself to improving productivity growth by cutting back on immigration. Nothing would surprise any more.

There is a final irony to all of this. Since the days of the Laurier government in the late 1800s, the Liberal Party has been the party that supported immigration and that immigrants supported.

But an online survey in December by Leger of 2,104 adults who arrived in Canada within the past 10 years (margin of error within 2.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20) found that 4 in 10 newcomers believe Canada brings in too many immigrants.

The Conservatives are now as popular as the Liberals with newcomers. There would be a certain irony if the Liberal Party’s wide-open immigration policies caused immigrant voters to contribute to its defeat.

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