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Trudeau says 'massive spike' in migrants driving down wages, causing 'so much pressure'

A “massive spike” in newcomers arriving in Canada in recent years has “caused so much pressure in our communities,” Justin Trudeau has said.

Apparently attacking his own government’s immigration policy, the prime minister said the country has been receiving temporary residents “at a rate far beyond what Canada has been able to absorb.”

Speaking in Halifax this morning to promote his latest plans to boost housebuilding, Trudeau also said foreigners were “driving down wages in some sectors” and pledged to get immigration numbers “back under control.”

Canada’s population grew by 1.27 million people in 2023, according to Statistics Canada. The vast majority (97.6 per cent) of that growth was due to immigration.

It was the fastest annual percentage growth in the population – 3.2 per cent – since 1957. The overall population is now estimated to be 40.77 million.

Just under half a million (471,771) of the newcomers arriving last year were permanent residents.

A further 805,000 were non-permanent residents, including students, temporary workers and asylum claimants.

StatCan estimates that on Jan. 1 of this year, 2.662 million non-permanent residents were living in Canada, making up just over 6.5 per cent of the country’s overall population.

When Trudeau took office in 2015, there were about 770,000 non-permanent residents in Canada, a little over two per cent of the country’s population.

There were also fewer than 300,000 permanent residents entering the country every year.

<who> Photo credit: 123RF

Trudeau said today that taking in 500,000 permanent residents a year is “part of the necessary growth of Canada.”

He added: “It benefits our citizens, our communities, it benefits our economy. These are the levels that we have stabilized and grown steadily over the years because that’s what Canada needs to continue to have a strong economy and strong communities.

“However, over the past few years we’ve seen a massive spike in temporary immigration, whether it’s temporary foreign workers, or whether it’s international students in particular, that have grown at a rate far beyond what Canada has been able to absorb.”

“That’s something that we need to get back under control,” he added. “Both for the benefits of those people – because international students, we’re seeing, are increasingly vulnerable to mental health challenges, to not being able to thrive and get the education they want – but also increasingly more and more businesses relying on temporary foreign workers in a way that’s driving down wages in some sectors.

“So we want to get those numbers down. It’s a responsible approach to immigration that continues on our permanent residents as we have but holds the line a little more on the temporary immigration that has caused so much pressure in our communities.”

<who> Photo credit: StatCan

Immigration Minister Marc Miller said last month the federal government intends to shrink the proportion of temporary residents in the overall Canadian population.

He said that, by 2027, the proportion should be about five per cent – still more than double what it was when Trudeau came to power.

Critics have said that, after a record rise in temporary migration in recent years, the policy is inadequate.

Canada’s surging population has been blamed for declining quality of life, stretched public services and extraordinarily high house prices.

Last month, the Bank of Canada said employment “continues to grow more slowly than the population.”

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