Canada Will Welcome 300,000 Immigrants In 2017. But Why Not More?

By James Metcalfe | October 31, 2016

James Metcalfe - Director of ImmigrationJim Metcalfe – Pace Law Firm: The Canadian government has stated that it will allow 300,000 immigrants into Canada in 2017. When you factor in Syrian refugees, this is approximately the same number as 2016:

The previous target from 2011 to 2015 was 260,000, but that swelled to 300,000 this year because of what McCallum called the “special circumstances” of the Syrian refugee crisis. That number will now be the permanent base.

The government’s economic growth council had recommended raising immigration levels to 450,000 over the next five years, but McCallum rejected that target today.

“That number is a conceivable number for some date in the future, but certainly not for 2017,” he said.

Many people, including business groups and employers, were expecting Canada to follow the advice of the economic growth council (ECG) and increase the number of permanent residents to be welcomed into Canada. Yet the government balked. Why?

Less Immigration Staff = Less Immigrants

First, the government’s staffing shortage killed any chance of meeting the high numbers the ECG recommended. Over the past 5 to 6 years, there has been a steady decline in the number of overseas visa offices which process immigrants outside of Canada. In addition, the number of Canadian visa officers who staff the offices has also declined. Remember: you can’t simply say, “Come on in.” Someone has to check immigrants for proper papers and qualifications. Without increasing staff – i.e., spending a lot more money – you can’t promise an increase in immigrants.

Second, the government introduced the Express Entry system two years ago. It has been an obstacle for many persons who wish to come to Canada, as it is difficult for people to get a high enough score to qualify for immigration. This has especially affected many foreign students in Canada who, upon graduation, are given permits to work in Canada for up to three years, but in many cases have no hope of qualifying under the system because they aren’t given enough points for their Canadian experience.

So yes, promise to raise the immigration number to 1 million if you wish – but if only 1/3 of them qualify, what difference does it make?

The System Needs Changing

Hopefully the system will change to allow more immigrants, but in the absence of any indication that the government will shake up the system, I wouldn’t count on it.

Minister McCallum has had a year to implement changes to Express Entry. He has held extensive consultations across Canada. But despite past talk of change, the government has only played with the numbers while keeping the system intact. Just as my beloved Blue Jays failed to reach the World Series again this year, the immigration department came up short, too. Better luck next year.