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Canada is buckling under record immigration

Credit: Getty

January 19, 2024 - 7:00am

Population growth used to be determined by birth rates. But in the infertile West, it’s increasingly immigration policy which makes the difference. One might think, then, that no government would use this power beyond reasonable bounds. However, that’s to reckon without Justin Trudeau. During his eight years in office, the Canadian Prime Minister has pursued a recklessly liberal immigration policy. 

According to a report this week from the National Bank of Canada, “Canada’s population increased by more than 1.2 million” in 2023. That’s on top of the “rebound of 825,000 in 2022 after the Covid recession”. The country has 38 million people compared to Britain’s 68 million, but UK net immigration in the year to June 2023 was 0.67 million. By any standard, the Canadian level is astonishingly high. 

The report’s authors, Stéfane Marion and Alexandra Ducharme, are upfront about the advantages of immigration, which they say is “good for our potential growth”. However, they add that “all good things have their limits.” That should be an obvious point, even trite. But in respect to immigration, it needs to be said. 

Unlike other things that are good, but only up to a point — low interest rates, minimum wages, public borrowing — whole sections of respectable opinion refuse to face up to the limits of migration. Rather than tackle the difficult questions, Left-wingers and liberals resort to the politics of platitude. When Trudeau’s deputy Chrystia Freeland was questioned on the stresses of Canada’s population growth, she replied: “Canada has the social capacity to welcome immigrants.”

This chimes with a favourite slogan of the open borders crowd: “build a longer table, not a higher wall.” This might sound nice, but the thing about longer tables (or higher walls) is that they require investment. Marion and Ducharme argue that Canadian immigration is running at such a pace that it’s overwhelming the supply of capital. They refer to this predicament as a “population trap” — a term that has distinctly Malthusian connotations. 

Of course, no one is seriously arguing that rapid population growth will lead to food shortages. That’s a nightmare that Western economies have consigned to the famine-haunted past. But most of us have aspirations beyond not starving to death. Enough capital is therefore required to invest in production sufficient for our wider needs and wants: fulfilling jobs, affordable housing and accessible public services. 

If I’m reading Marion and Ducharme correctly, this is where excessive population growth could be exhausting economic resources. But is there any evidence that this is actually happening? 

One can start with Canada’s life-blighting rise in housing costs — by the far the steepest in the G7. By an amazing coincidence, Canada also has the highest level of immigration. These facts are obviously related, but expect the ultra-immigrationists to claim it’s not the number of arrivals which is the real problem. For instance, Freeland reckons that “we have to build more homes faster.” But if that’s such an easy solution, then why not peg immigration levels to house-building levels?

Not only would this put the horse before the cart, it would be a sign of good faith on the part of national leaders — assuming, of course, that they have any. 


Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.

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Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
6 months ago

They’re a bit torn because the reason house building and infrastructure development is so sclerotic in response to population growth in western countries is the regulatory red tape which provides secure well paid employment to much of the public sector middle class who form the core electoral support for progressive-left parties in those countries.

Kevan Hudson
Kevan Hudson
5 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

That is 100% Canada.
Almost every budget at all three levels of government brings more government staff being hired, more debt and more tax increases. The Government Blob must grow.

Mustard Clementine
Mustard Clementine
5 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Well, that, and their only remaining voting base tends to skew towards the elderly, who increasingly need more people willing to care for them in their senescence. That’s also where most of the need for housing to maintain its absurdly high return on investment comes from, to enable them to leverage their unrealized equity to pay for long-term services from all these people.
I worry that if this trend continues, we’re essentially on the path to normalizing the concept of importing indentured servants. With housing being so expensive, I could see it being framed as a great arrangement to be a live-in carer, working for minimal wages, essentially around the clock, just for room and board – even if care needs could lead to a situation where they’re never, ever allowed to leave said room.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
5 months ago

And then when they have children, their children can be servants to the next generation of elderly. The system could perpetuate itself indefinitely, and since servants are poor and don’t have as much access to health and education they’ll reproduce more, so we’ll always have plenty of servants. We’ll have a self sustaining class of servants. It’s brilliant. Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?

Kat L
Kat L
5 months ago

That would leave the elderly ripe for abuse. This is already a problem and with so many people nowadays remaining childless that will only get worse. No one to advocate or even be aware of abuse is going to be a big thing.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
6 months ago

Trudeau is not satisfied with being a woke buffoon. He has to be the wokiest, buffooniest clown of them all. Immigration is a math problem. I guess simple arithmetic is too much to expect from a drama teacher.

Darlene Craig
Darlene Craig
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I have to admit I didn’t pay too much attention til the last few years. Seems like things went along fairly reasonably under Harper, but we wanted a change from his robotic ways. Now look what we got! A thoughtless ideologue who appears to have no grasp of reality. Who knew that an economist would do a better job than a drama teacher, even if the drama teacher is better looking and has a famous last name!!

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
5 months ago
Reply to  Darlene Craig

I was disillusioned by Harper because he dropped the democratic reforms he promised – it really bothered me and I didn’t vote in 2015. But my God, he was sooooooo much better than Trudeau. I guess those were the heady days when competence was simply expected of politicians.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Competence and politicians don’t belong in the same sentence, probably not even the same paragraph. Since COVID, just seeing them together feels wrong somehow.

Kat L
Kat L
5 months ago
Reply to  Darlene Craig

I used to think that until I saw an upfront photo. There doesn’t appear to be anything behind those eyes

Andrew Roman
Andrew Roman
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Excessive Canadian immigration levels have other unnoticed consequences. Immigrants require not only housing construction but also home heating, cars, gasoline, air flights, etc, substantially increasing the use of fossil fuels. That increases CO2 emissions in absolute terms, even as they are slightly declining on a per capita basis. However, our government’s net zero targets, the dates of which keep getting shorter and closer, are based on national totals without any adjustments for population increase. This is used to justify the escalating carbon tax and legislated emissions caps, among other costly climate policies.

These climate policies with massive immigration result in continued 3-4 percent inflation, with much higher percentage increases in food and housing costs. The government is now planning to spend billions on housing subsidies and is accusing grocery store chains of price gouging, which is wrong.

This is an unsustainable vicious cycle.

Kat L
Kat L
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Roman

Well, so much for Canada being a refuge that disaffected Americans can escape to…

Harry Phillips
Harry Phillips
6 months ago

Immigration levels are stratospherically high in most Western countries simultaneously.

Why?

Do the governments permitting such levels ever take the wishes of existing populations into account?

Mrs R
Mrs R
6 months ago
Reply to  Harry Phillips

Clearly not.

Katja Sipple
Katja Sipple
6 months ago
Reply to  Harry Phillips

Of course they do not take the wishes of the native populations into account! We are not asked, and our opinions are not welcome. Then they feign surprise , or even shock, when nationalistic parties gain momentum and votes…it seems as though none of our so-called leaders are capable of seeing connections and drawing conclusions. The concept of action and reaction appears to be unknown.

Mick Davis
Mick Davis
5 months ago
Reply to  Katja Sipple

Maybe one solution would be to abolish the NHS

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
5 months ago
Reply to  Katja Sipple

The avg person probably thinks the govt has a team of accountants at work analyzing immigration – weighing the benefits of increased labour vs the cost of increased welfare payments and housing. This is what any normal, competent organization would do. What we get instead are buffoons captured by progressive ideology driving policy without even bothering to analyze the outcome. Rinse and repeat for net zero, gender health care, covid, drug addiction and homelessness etc…Disagree with any of this and you’re a far-right rac!st. And they have the temerity to wonder why Trump is so popular.

R E P
R E P
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

They just want new voters to keep them in power…

Kat L
Kat L
5 months ago
Reply to  R E P

Due to how our system is set up, yes for America. I don’t understand the other western systems, they seem designed to not get anything done decisively.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
5 months ago
Reply to  Harry Phillips

Simply asking that question will make you xenophobic or racist or some other type of ist/phobe. Govts are actively working against the interests of law-abiding taxpayers. We see it in the US, too, where illegals are pouring in and crime goes unnoticed, let alone unpunished.

Danny D
Danny D
5 months ago
Reply to  Harry Phillips

As the latest elections in Europe show: No, but they’ll have to start to.

William Cameron
William Cameron
5 months ago
Reply to  Harry Phillips

Because it put up GDP. Measure Politicians however on GDP per capita and they will stop immigration in a heartbeat.

Karen Arnold
Karen Arnold
5 months ago

Perhaps they are not capable of understanding the difference?

R E P
R E P
5 months ago
Reply to  Harry Phillips

Activists want to transform their countries by changing the voter base…Attend any western university and you will hear this idea within your first day.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
6 months ago

“The report’s authors, Stéfane Marion and Alexandra Ducharme, are upfront about the advantages of immigration, which they say is “good for our potential growth”.”
But is growth a desirable objective?
Surely not the kind of growth that is purely a function of population growth particularly for those that are concerned about climate change 

William Cameron
William Cameron
5 months ago

It’s not even true- it reduces GDP per capita.

Kevan Hudson
Kevan Hudson
5 months ago

But it does increase consumption, with millions more, so the big corporations in Canada like Loblaws and Sobeys in the grocery industry and Bell and Rogers in telecommunications love immigration.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
5 months ago

Indeed

Chipoko
Chipoko
5 months ago

Why does the Canadian electorate continue to back the awful Trudeau? He is seriously bad news!

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
5 months ago
Reply to  Chipoko

Why is Joe Biden considered a viable candidate to remain in office? If you can unlock the partisan genome within people, fame awaits you.

McExpat M
McExpat M
5 months ago
Reply to  Chipoko

Due to our vast country and how our elections are decided, first past the post, the results are generally cemented once the tally is calculated through Quebec and Ontario. To say that those two provinces are special lobbies for the Liberal machine is probably the best way to describe them – they also represent the most densely populated areas. Trudeau has massively ramped up the federal public service in Ontario during his reign, growing it by at least 40% with generous raises and entitlements that are among the best in the country. They are obviously loyal as would any new immigrant be. If your native population despises you, just import one that has fealty. On top of which, women seem particularly vulnerable to his snake oil charms. Believe me, he is widely hated but hard to get rid of.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
5 months ago
Reply to  Chipoko

The people of Canada do not support Trudeau and they haven’t for the last three elections. I’ve posted the numbers before, but I’m going by memory here. In the last three elections his winning vote totals were all under 40%, were the three lowest vote totals in Canadian history, were lower than the Conservative Party. Vast swathes of the country never vote for him, but he has succeeded in the country’s largest cities. He has formed minority govts with the NDP. He may be the most hated PM in Canadian history, with his dad running a close second.

Steve Houseman
Steve Houseman
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Totally agree. Pierre Trudeau 1970, War Measures Act. Justin Trudeau 2022, Emergency Measures Act. Both had/have great contempt for the people. Both spent/spend our money like there’s no tomorrow. Both were born with golden spoons in their mouths. Only Pierre could claim a sort of quasi intellectual intelligence, Justin though can’t claim any…a ‘pretty boy’.

Chipoko
Chipoko
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

That’s a very interesting response, Jim – as are the others to my post. Thank you all for your insightful observations.
Your figures, Jim, really do flabbergast me in so much as it is mind-blowing that such a rotten person can apparently snivel into a position of such power, and then abuse that power, thereby showing such contempt for his electorate. Western democracies have been roundly captured by these Woking Class political calculators – Obama, Blair, Theresa May, Macron, Sunak, Biden, etc.
It is frightening to contemplate just how much the democratic world we knew and took for granted in the 20th Century has so massively changed in the past 10-15 years (just consider the difference in the films from the 1990s to the endless propaganda trash delivered by today’s Woke production lines). The speed and extent of this change, quietly incubated beyond our vision for decades in the institutions, have overwhelmed established democratic principles and practices and imprisoned entire populations within a ruthless, totalitarian rule of the elites. Trudeau is one such example. And the truly terrifying thing is how difficult, perhaps impossible, it is to get rid of these evil power players; and to seek to return to some better standard of decency and balance in the way we are governed.
Perhaps it’s too late?

James H Johnson
James H Johnson
5 months ago

Many of our friends in Western Europe tell us that they deeply regret their government’s unilateral decision to allow mass migration of peoples from countries with drastically different customs, traditions and religions. Their objections are not unreasonable.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
5 months ago

When you consider “buckling” as the goal – and I’d love to hear a case of how it’s not – instead of the result of misguided policy, stupidity, or incompetence, it all makes sense. These people are not dumb. The odds of having lousy results this often on that many things without those outcomes being intentional are astronomical. But people don’t want to think that way. I can’t blame them.
Who wants to believe that elected officials are actively working against the interests of the population. We may see these people as greedy, corrupt, and venal, but going to ‘evil’ is a big step. Yet, here we are. What has Trudeau done that is decisively in the interests of Canadian citizens?
One might ask the same question of Biden. Or of govts across the EU whose actions have raised the dreaded specter of “far-right” candidates doing well at the polls. Well, why are those candidates finding traction? It’s not a hard question. If only there was a profession dedicated to asking stuff like that.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
5 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

I disagree. I think they are dumb. More than that, they are captured by destructive ideology. No one in govt is actually doing the math.

Kat L
Kat L
5 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

It looks to me that those working in the Biden administration thought that they were in a real life episode of ‘the west wing’.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
5 months ago

Just about everywhere in the USA people are complaining about the high cost and unavailability of housing. Joe Biden has let in 6 to 8 million illegal aliens in 3 years. They have to live somewhere. The sad part is that folks who vote for Biden are so daft they literally cannot put two and two together.

Steve Houseman
Steve Houseman
5 months ago

The other sad thing is that immigrants, of what ever type, believe they are coming to the land of milk and honey where opportunities abound. Unfortunately this is not the case.

Kevan Hudson
Kevan Hudson
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Houseman

Correct. Onward migration increased by around 30% in Canada in 2023.

PJ Alexander
PJ Alexander
5 months ago

In Canada a major part of our housing issues is bureaucratic red tape and outmoded regulation, which is something the federal government could help to fix. They do not. This government runs on ideology (‘immigration good’) rather than actual ideas (how do we make this work in a practical sense). To the commenter who asks why we keep falling for Trudeau & Co: I don’t know, but I suspect it has something to do with the fact it’s more convenient to believe in the ideology, rather than notice our context has changed, and exercise your right and responsibility as a citizen to do something about it.

William Cameron
William Cameron
5 months ago

“The report’s authors, Stéfane Marion and Alexandra Ducharme, are upfront about the advantages of immigration, which they say is “good for our potential growth”. 
Rather depends on what is meant by “growth”.
Increase in GDP – possibly.
Increase in GDP per capita – probably not.
And its GDP per capita that matters. If you want to be poor ,import people who pay less tax than their families cost in services.
A concept politicians seem too dense to grasp.

Kat L
Kat L
5 months ago

This is where ideology steps in as Louis CK stated on Rogan’s podcast ‘ My feeling is they should open it-the border, let everybody pour in, and then the answer which is ‘well then there will be all these problems.’ Yes, there should be,” he said. “It shouldn’t be so great here, is what I’m saying, in America.’

Karen Arnold
Karen Arnold
5 months ago

As mentioned in the article, longer tables not only require investment – they also need space. When the space is full, no matter how much is invested, each seat is less comfortable.

Vesselina Zaitzeva
Vesselina Zaitzeva
5 months ago
Reply to  Karen Arnold

In addition, those who argue for longer tables, conveniently forget that these tables would not be just pieces of furniture made for purely decorative purposes. There would be a need to put more food on them, for everyone on these longer tables. Three times a day at least per person/seat.
In contrast, a wall is a one-off investment and basically can take care of itself, save for some minor maintenance now and then.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
5 months ago

The liberals are a blight on the middle class. They mean to do away with it.

Their goal is to have the rich, their friends, bureaucrats, their votes, and the poor, their victims.

Kevan Hudson
Kevan Hudson
5 months ago

Canada: the land of nonsense governance.

Fun fact: while almost all cities across Canada eschewed New Year’s Eve celebrations for 2024 my friends and many others across Asia had fireworks, drone displays and parties supported by governments and society on December 31st.

jane baker
jane baker
5 months ago

Having read some of the comments I think this is an appropriate place to reference some points I read yesterday in a book I’m reading about ancient Rome,it’s Rome a History….by Matthew Neale. The author says that ( pardon me if my simple version is not pin point accurate) circa 380ad about when Rome was still imperial but The Barbarians were out there,it was all as we know bread and circuses. But it was a bit more complex (as ever) Rome was crammed with people ,lots of them running small businesses or just hoping to get lucky. immigrants from all over the world,their world. But only registered Roman citizens were entitled to the free bread dole which still left a huge layer beneath them of destitute people,like the “homeless” in our cities now. Plus the jobs market was seriously undermined and affected by the huge SLAVE population. If you could afford to buy some slaves to work for you why would you go to the expense of paying someone a wage. I thought these two points were so relevant to now. OK we don’t have Slaves yet,but it’s only a matter of time..Anyway they wouldn’t be called Slaves this time round,they’d think of a snazzy sounding term like remunerated volunteers or something.

R E P
R E P
5 months ago

Just like the UK – lots of benefits dependent voters help to grow the state and vote in leftist governments.

Nancy Kmaxim
Nancy Kmaxim
5 months ago

We seem to be having the wrong conversation. Who are the immigrants who are unable to care for themselves and their families in such a wealthy, land and resource rich country? Where did this dependent mindset come from? Why do Canadians vote for Justin Trudeau?