The federal government has announced that it will welcome 300,000 immigrants into Canada in 2017 as a continuation of the elevated baseline that was made this year.
The biggest increase comes from the target for economic immigrants, which will increase from 160,600 in 2016 to 172,500 next year. Family reunification immigrants will also increase slightly from 80,000 to 84,000. Both higher targets are offset by lowering the number of refugees from 55,800 to 40,000, which was increased this year in response to the Syrian crisis.
Separately, the government expects too welcome 3,500 persons selected on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
“The 2017 levels plan will put Canada in a strong position for the future and support our overall economic and social development as a country,” said John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, in a statement.
This represents an increase from the 250,000 annual limit set by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government between 2011 and 2015, although there was a spike in 2015 due to the new Liberal government’s refugee policies in the last quarter of the year.
The five-year average for the period from 2011 to 2015 was 259,542 per year.
However, annual immigration targets could increase drastically after next year. A report last month by the federal government’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth recommended increasing immigration levels to 450,000 per year, representing an increase of 150,000 economic immigrants over current targets, to uphold economic growth, offset low birth rates, and help support pensions and public services such as health care.
Under this target, approximately 75,000 immigrants will be principal economic applicants and another 75,000 will be their family members.
“Canada’s population is aging, and just as in other advanced economies, this demographic change will limit economic growth,” reads the report.
“An aging population limits growth by reducing the number of workers contributing to economic output. At the same time, an aging population burdens social systems that depend on wage-based contributions because there are fewer wage earners generating the tax revenues necessary for health care and elderly benefit programs, and there are more beneficiaries to these programs. ”
Without significant changes to immigration policies, the report warns that Canada’s annual GDP growth is expected to drop by more than half of historical levels to 1.5%, and per capita GDP growth will also fall to 0.8%.
And most evidently of the potential problems to come, the number of working-age citizens for every senior will decrease from 4.2 in 2015 to 2.7 in 2030, which will strain government budgets and threaten the health of the economy and social safety net that Canadians enjoy today.