Statistics Canada has revealed the Canadian population saw a record surge in growth last year, fuelled almost entirely by immigration.
In the year that ended on Jan. 1, 2023, the country’s population boomed, increasing by more than one million people for the first time in Canadian history, to hit just under 39.6 million, reports the statistical and demographic services agency of the federal government.
With that spike in its population, Canada saw a growth rate of 2.7 per cent, a rate not seen since the Baby Boom years, since 1957.
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But this time around, the Canadian population boom isn’t due to romantic goings on in the nation’s bedrooms.
The rate of population growth last year was fuelled by record levels of immigration to Canada.
“This previous record population growth rate in 1957 was related to the high number of births during the post-war baby boom and the high immigration of refugees following the Hungarian Revolution of 1956,” reports Statistics Canada.
“In 2022, the reason behind Canada’s record-high population growth was somewhat different, since international migration accounted for nearly all growth recorded, about 95.9 per cent of it.”
Among the G7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – Canada is by far the population growth leader.
“Canada’s population growth rate of 2.7 per cent in 2022 would put it among the top 20 in the world,” notes Statistics Canada. “Almost all countries with a higher pace of population growth were in Africa.”
The current rate of population growth in Canada would lead to it doubling its population in only 26 years, notes Statistics Canada.
“The increase seen in international migration is related to efforts by the government of Canada to ease labour shortages in key sectors of the economy,” notes the agency. “High job vacancies and labour shortages are occurring in a context where population aging has accelerated in Canada and the unemployment rate remains near its record low.”
In its 2023-2025 Immigration Levels Plan, Ottawa set the immigration target for this year at 465,000 new permanent residents. The country is to welcome 485,000 new permanent residents in 2024 and another 500,000 in 2025.
That’s a total of 1.45 million new permanent residents to Canada over the next three years.
High Immigration Levels Touted By Some As Vital But Poses Challenges For Canada
That’s in line with the recommendations of the Century Initiative, a non-profit organization which wants the country to more than double its population to 100 million by the year 2100.
The organization touts population growth as vital for the country’s economic growth and prosperity.
“Growing our population to 100 million by 2100 would reduce the burden on government revenues to fund healthcare, old age security, and other services. It would also mean more skilled workers, innovation, and dynamism in the Canadian economy,” notes the organization on its website.
In its 2019 report, For A Bigger, Bolder Canada: Long-term Thinking. Starting Now, the Century Initiative proposed vastly increasing immigration to levels then considered to be so high the organization took pains to point out its plan was not “radical”.
Rapid population growth, though, comes with potential downsides as well as opportunities, notes Statistics Canada.
“A rise in the number of permanent and temporary immigrants could also represent additional challenges for some regions of the country related to housing, infrastructure and transportation, and service delivery to the population,” notes Statistics Canada.
During the Quebec provincial election last year, Quebec Premier François Legault and his immigration minister both made it clear the francophone province does not want to see rapid immigration growth.
Quebec Immigration Minister Christine Fréchette has cited the need to ensure adequate settlement services so any newcomers will be able to integrate properly into Quebecois society.
“It is up to Quebec to set its own targets for permanent immigration,” she tweeted.
“The upper limit for Quebec is now 50,000 (new permanent residents) due to our capacity to welcome, provide French-language services and integrate them.”
At the national level, some federal politicians are also expressing concerns about Canada’s record-breaking rate of immigration.
People’s Party of Canada (PPC) leader Maxime Bernier is one of them.
In 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada welcomed 341,175 new permanent residents, or 28.2 per cent less than the 437,500 such arrivals last year – and Bernier was then already telling Canadians that was too many immigrants to the country.
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“A People’s Party government will substantially lower the total number of immigrants and refugees we accept every year … to between 100,000 and 150,000,” said Bernier at that time.
That is still the PPC position. On its website the political party, which garnered only 4.9 per cent of the popular vote and failed to elect a single member to Parliament in the last federal election, notes it wants an immigration system that puts the emphasis on economic immigration and accepts fewer refugees.
“Our current refugee policy is unsustainable, costly, and it is being abused by false refugees at our borders,” claims the PPC. “This must end. The moral obligation of Canada’s government is to first help those in need among our own population and then to give priority to real refugees.”
Outside of the world of politics, some economists are going so far as to blame Canada’s high level of immigration for the dramatic rise in real estate prices and rents across the country.
Desjardins Group economists Randall Bartlett, Hélène Begin and Marc Desormeaux wrote in a Feb. 9 report that “the heightened level of immigration is supporting demand, pushing up rents and helping to keep a floor on housing market activity.”
The Desjardins Group economists stated Canada would have to boost housing starts by 50 per cent just to meet the demand for housing – and they expressed doubt that could or would happen.
“Using history as a guide, the supply response is likely to be insufficient to prevent an increase in prices and an erosion of affordability,” they reportedly wrote.
Although the arrival of permanent residents through federal Express Entry programs is helping to fuel population growth, the arrival of many temporary residents, including temporary foreign workers and international students, is also driving up the population figures.
“For the year 2022, Canada welcomed (437,500) immigrants and saw a net increase of the number of non-permanent residents estimated at 607,782,” reports Statistics Canada.
“Both of these numbers represent the highest levels on record, reflecting higher immigration targets and a record-breaking year for the processing of immigration applications at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).