Affordable housing woes amid rapid arrival of newcomers top list of priorities
By Charmaine Y. Rodriguez
Marc Miller, Canada’s newly minted immigration minister, is greeted by an affordable housing supply crisis as the country pursues its plan to welcome 500,000 permanent immigrants by 2025.
He has also been given a list of nine priority areas – ranging from fixing the technical glitches in visa processing systems to reimagining the international student program – that the Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association (CILA) wants him to address, according to a Yahoo News report.
Miller, 50, a lawyer and a close friend and college mate of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was named as the new immigration minister in a cabinet shuffle Wednesday, which saw seven new MPs promoted to ministers, 23 others moved to new roles leaving eight in their current portfolios.
He was previously the Minister of Crown Indigenous Relations. He takes over the post of Sean Fraser, who is now the new Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities.
Mario Canseco, president of Research Co, a Vancouver-based public opinion polling company, said the challenge for Miller is to address the ongoing housing affordability crisis which some quarters are blaming on rapid immigration.
“We are ready to keep delivering on the things that matter most to you – making life more affordable, growing the economy, and creating good jobs for the middle class,” Trudeau said in a statement.
In 2022, Immigration Canada processed approximately 5.2 million applications for permanent residence, temporary residence, and citizenship—which is double the figures in 2021.
Immigration accounts for almost 100 percent of Canada’s labour force growth, helping to address labour shortages in key sectors.
However, when Fraser was sworn in as Housing Minister, he said immigration can help address housing affordability and supply.
“The answer is, at least in part, to continue to build more stock. But I would caution to anyone who believes the answer to our housing challenges is to close the door on newcomers,” Fraser warned in a report by globalnews.ca.
But the Canadian public may not think so.
The Yahoo News report quoted a recent risk-factor analysis by Century Initiative, a non-partisan charity that advocates for more immigration, that cited in a report that access to affordable housing is a risk that could negatively impact immigration.
The report said strong public support for immigration is predicated on Canadians’ perception that newcomers are contributing to prosperity and well-being rather than competing for scarce resources or services.
“While Canada is one of the world’s most attractive countries for immigrants, there are growing concerns that some immigrants believe Canada has promised more than it has delivered. These concerns come at a time of growing global competition for talent,” the report reads.
Lisa Lalande, chief executive officer of Century Initiative, said her group is looking forward to working closely with Minister Miller to help the government meet its ambitious immigration level plans.
“Minister Miller and his cabinet colleagues also have a responsibility to maintain strong public support for immigration by ensuring that Canada’s population growth is sustainable by enabling development of the physical and social infrastructure necessary to ensure Canada grows well. As a strong advocate for increased investment in affordable housing, Minister Miller is well positioned to help to build consensus within the federal government and work closely with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments on these important issues,” she said.
Desjardins’ senior director of Canadian economics, Randall Bartlett, in a recent report said the short-term strains of surging population growth are beginning to show, particularly in the housing market.
“It’s a difficult balance to strike, and it speaks to the need for the federal government to marry Canada’s immigration policy with a results-driven approach aimed at increasing the affordability of all types of housing,” Bartlett said.
Meanwhile, CILA, the association representing about 500 immigration lawyers, has asked for a meeting with Miller to discuss a range of “pressing concerns” and to explore ways to enhance Canada’s immigration landscape.
In a letter to the new minister, CILA outlined nine priorities that needed to be addressed including increased immigrant entrepreneurship and investment to support Canada’s economic recovery, the reimagining of the International Student Program to prioritize quality over quantity and fixing the technical issues plaguing Canada’s immigration portals.
“(The) “Authorized Representative Portal” and “Employer Portal” have frequently experienced outages, causing applicants to miss deadlines and impacting Canadian employers during a period of labor shortages,” said CILA in its letter.
“We urge the Department to view immigration lawyers as a resource to shorten processing times and create efficiencies rather than design programs that exclude us.”