The numbers have ballooned. Canada’s population is reported to now be 40.5 million and we aren’t stopping there. Immigration targets this year are 485,000.

By Dorothy Dobbie


Canada was built on immigration and newcomers have always been encouraged and welcomed. But the ambitious plans of the current government, together with an open-door policy for nontraditional immigrants, has seen Canada’s population grow by one million people in 2022.

The numbers have ballooned. Canada’s population is reported to now be 40.5 million and we aren’t stopping there. Immigration targets this year are 485,000. This does not count the students who are here on study permits (360,000 have so far been approved for 2024, and that is a reduction of 35% over 2023). Government has not in the past set a target or a limit on temporary foreign workers, but some estimates put the joint total for foreign workers and students at 2.5 million. These numbers do not include the illegal border crossers and those who came to the country seeking asylum. Apparently, there are 1.8 million of these folks, of whom only a shocking 3% have been approved. The rest are still here, waiting.

Given these few facts (this is just a quick scan), is it any wonder that we do not have enough housing? That housing is so expensive, new entrants into the market are being shut out and yet also can’t afford the high rents of some cities? That there are, according to some estimates, 150,000 to 300,000 people living on the street, (up from 35,000 in 2019).

Is all this because of immigration? No. There are several systemic issues that have given rise to this crisis, not excluding the COVID shutdown, but the sudden acceleration of new people into the economy has put a severe strain on our infrastructure. This includes not only health services but less obvious services such as roads, water and sewer, electricity, and home heating to mention just a few, and all of these require expansion to accommodate the rapidly burgeoning numbers. Gearing up for this requires time and resources.

But you ask, won’t these new people increase our capacity by adding to the labour pool and by paying taxes through their employment? That is the ideal but there are many, many undocumented immigrants now in the country and not all have legal employment status. Elderly parents and children swell the numbers but don’t add to capacity. It takes at least ten years to balance needs with contributions even for landed immigrants paying full taxes and earning a decent living.

An immigration pause is no magic bullet, and it doesn’t mean zero immigration. Careful thought should go into who should be paused and those who should be allowed in for say the next five to seven years, focusing on the needs of those already here – it is no picnic if you finally get in and discover there is no place to live!

During that time, it is up to all three levels of government to put their heads together, harmonize practices and housing industry permits, calculate the community infrastructure requirement at all levels, focus on where the labour needs are most urgent, and prepare workers for jobs in home construction and hard infrastructure development.

In the third quarter of last year, the job vacancy rate in housing construction was more than 5% and productivity is down. It now takes more workers longer to do the same job – you may have noticed how long it takes to build an apartment block today or even to repave your local street. I am not blaming the workers – much of this has to do with overregulation and, some say, an aging workforce. Planners are looking at how to encourage young people, including women, to go into the trades. Others are proposing the use of more prefab building techniques and homes, a short-term fix as many of the prefab parts are built in third world countries. We recruit foreign nurses, why can’t we recruit more foreign construction workers?

Whatever happens, a pause in immigration will at least slow the demand and allow time to formulate a fix using all strategies we can muster. Time for some rational approaches to the problem or all people living in Canada, citizen or not, will suffer the consequences.

Shauna: Continued immigration to Canada