April 3, 2024 - 7:00pm

Temporary immigration is too high and putting undue pressure on Canadians, Justin Trudeau has claimed.

“Over the past few years we’ve seen a massive spike in temporary immigration,” the Canadian Prime Minister told an audience on Tuesday. “Whether it’s temporary foreign workers, or whether it’s international students in particular that have grown at a rate that’s far beyond what Canada has been able to absorb.”

Trudeau delivered the remarks while promoting an infrastructure project aimed at building more housing. While he reiterated his support for immigration generally, he warned that the surge in temporary migrants was causing problems and needed to be reined in. “In 2017, 2% of Canada’s population was made up by temporary immigrants,” he said. “Now we’re at 7.5% of our population […] That’s something that we need to get back under control.”

The comments come amid a deluge of bad polls for Trudeau, who is currently trailing Conservative rival Pierre Poilievre by 14 percentage points in popularity. Poilievre has repeatedly campaigned on immigration, saying that “after eight years of Trudeau, our entire immigration system is ruined”, and that the PM “opened the floodgates” in a way that was disconnected from the number of homes to house people, and the amount of jobs to employ them.

Trudeau’s immigration U-turn may come as a surprise to many. Until recently, the Canadian PM has been a vocal proponent of immigration and at one point even accused a woman of racism after she asked pointed questions about his policies in 2018.

Since he took power in 2015 Canada has brought in record numbers of immigrants, welcoming about 2.5 million new permanent residents. The country also saw a massive surge in international students in recent years, which many Canadians blame for rising housing costs and increased pressure on the public healthcare system.

At the same time, Canadians have become more sceptical of immigration, with polls now finding that about three quarters believe rising immigration is contributing to high housing costs and a strained healthcare system, while 67% believe the country’s annual immigration goal is too high.

“Increasingly, more and more businesses are relying on temporary foreign workers in a way that’s driving down wages in some sectors,” he said. “So we want to get those numbers down.”

is UnHerd’s US correspondent.