Recent Polls Show That Canadians Are Getting Exactly What They Don’t Want

Canadians are frequently told that continuous growth is just what their country needs. But when surveyed, they have never expressed a craving for it. They want safe communities, access to nature, equality and the rule of law. They place greater value on quality of life than on a larger economy.

However, contrary to what Canadians may want, their government has focused its tunnel-vision on growth, which it is pursuing at all costs, and there have been many. The current government is implementing, in deed if not by admission, the vision of the Century Initiative, a lobby group launched in 2011 whose entire raison d’être is to drive Canada’s population to 100 million by 2100.

Canadians for a Sustainable Society (CSS) commissioned an online survey by Leger Market Research that was conducted in April 2023. (Full disclosure: I am a board member of CSS and Population Institute Canada helped pay for the survey.) The survey polled 1500 Canadians 18 years and older with over 25 questions. As far as I know, CSS’s Leger survey is the only one ever to have asked Canadians whether they think the Century Initiative’s idea of a population of 100 million by 2100 was a good one. They answered with a resounding “No!”

Canadians send a clear message with CSS survey

The summary below is not exhaustive and readers are invited to examine the survey in more detail on the CSS website where one can also download a PDF of the final report.

In general, the survey showed high support of factors that are directly negatively impacted by a growing population. For example, thinking about their own well-being, 94% of those surveyed placed importance on a safe community; 90% on a cleaner environment; 89% on a better world for children; 89% on affordable housing; 88% on a nice neighbourhood, and 88% on access to nature.

Meanwhile, 78% of those surveyed thought an increase in population would worsen the preservation of farmland, 76% thought it would worsen access to nature, 76% thought it would worsen housing affordability, while 73%, 66%, and 66%, respectively, thought it would worsen a healthy environment, quality of life, and efforts to address climate change.

Additionally, 61% said they would be upset with more crowded cities and towns in their community; 82% percent thought that a large city was not the best place to live, and 54% thought that quality of life in cities had declined in the last forty years, in contrast to 20% who thought it had gotten better.

Given their dissatisfaction with the impact of growth on their own community, it was a bit surprising that just under half (49%) of those surveyed thought that immigration should be less than current levels, while 20% were happy with current levels; 18% believed it could be a little higher, and 13% didn’t know. The CSS survey did not inform responders that immigration is responsible for over 95% of recent population growth in Canada and it’s possible that some of those surveyed did not connect very high immigration levels to the population growth that negatively impacted their communities.

This hypothesis is supported by an Abacus Data survey that was conducted between November 9 and 12, 2023, some six months after the CSS survey (and the salient points of which are summarized here). The introduction to the Abacus survey results states that only 31% of Canadians were informed about the immigration targets for 2024. Half of those surveyed thought that the targets were below 200,000 for the coming year. The actual number is over 485,000 permanent residents (which does not include categories such as temporary workers and students). Nevertheless, in the Abacus survey, 67% thought that Canada’s immigration target was too high (40% way too high, 27% too high), while 2% thought it was too low; 23% thought it was about right, and 7% didn’t know. Notably, the perception that immigration targets were too high was held by a majority both of those born in Canada (68%) and outside of Canada (62%).

Canada’s consensus: Growing to 100 million by 2100 is a bad idea

To the CSS’s Leger survey question of whether they thought the Century Initiative’s idea of a population of 100 million by 2100 was a good one, a whopping 60% thought it was a bad idea (32% bad, 28% very bad) and only 13% thought it was a good idea (11% good, 2% very good), a ratio of almost 5:1. Fifteen percent didn’t know and 12% thought it didn’t matter.

The results of the Leger survey commissioned by CSS are supported by several other surveys. In addition to the Abacus poll mentioned above, another survey was conducted in November 2023 by Leger on behalf of the Canadian Press (polling between November 24 and 26) that focused directly on immigration (Immigration Plan: Survey of Canadians, published on November 28, 2023). It found that the number of Canadians in favour of higher immigration levels had dropped to 9% in November 2023, well below the 17% in a March 2022 survey, while 48% wanted lower levels (up from 39% in March 2022).

Economists, bankers and the mainstream media have noted negative impacts of population growth

All recent surveys show that Canadians are stressed by the changes and pressures that immigration-driven population growth is imposing on their communities. The housing crisis has brought this issue to the fore – even economists and bankers have called for applying the brakes. In the past year or so, there have been an unprecedented number of articles questioning the wisdom of current policies by the same mainstream media that in recent years has served mainly to amplify the promotion of immigration by government and business.

For example, in March 2023, Mikal Skuterud, a professor of economics at the University of Waterloo and director of the Canadian Labour Economics Forum, questioned the reality of Canada’s perpetually touted labour shortage – in The Globe and Mail no less (the G&M is a booster of the Century Initiative and host of its annual webinar). Skuterud argued that satiating tight labour markets with cheap labour undermines labour productivity and the average living standards of the population. He suggested that not coddling the business lobby by expanding wage-subsidy programs or easing access to low-skilled temporary foreign workers, including foreign students, is good for worker productivity, workers’ wages and average economic living standards.

Previously, in an interview with the Hub in November 2022, Skuterud had stated that data of “pro-immigration outfits like Scotiabank and the Conference Board of Canada…find that increasing immigration rates are going to lower GDP per capita. They don’t like to say that out loud, but that’s what their data shows.”

In the interview, Skuterud says that expanding immigration has “distributional effects” with “winners and losers.” “The winners are easy to identify,” he said. “They’re the people who are shouting the loudest to increase immigration rates. This is, undoubtedly, organizations like the Century Initiative that is backed by corporate money. Businesses are clearly better off if there are long lines of workers outside their doors competing with each other to get those scarce jobs. Immigration lawyers is another sector of the economy that benefits. Immigrant settlement service providers that teach immigrants new language skills.”

Skuterud points out that those most likely to be adversely affected by high immigration levels are recent immigrants competing for jobs in the same labour market. There was “a very little gap” in earnings between immigrants who arrived in the late ’60 and early ’70s and the native-born, whereas in “the late ’70s and in the ’80s and into the ’90s, it was like this massive deterioration in the relative earnings of immigrants,” he said.

In a Globe and Mail opinion piece in February 2023, journalist Tony Keller cites Stéfane Marion, chief economist with the National Bank of Canada, as saying:

“Canada’s record housing supply imbalance, caused by an unprecedented increase in the working-age population (874,000 people over the past twelve months), means that there is currently only one housing start for every 4.2 people entering the working-age population. … Under these circumstances, people have no choice but to bid up the price of a dwindling inventory of rental units. The current divergence between rental inflation (8.2 per cent) and CPI [consumer price index] inflation (3.1 percent) is the highest in over 60 years. … There is no precedent for the peak in rental inflation to exceed the peak in headline inflation…”

In a lengthy article published on October 28, 2023, also in the Globe and Mail, Konrad Yakabuski takes a deep dive into the economic catastrophe that the Liberal government is imposing on Canadians. The government’s madcap plan, An Immigration Plan to Grow the Economy, involves an annual intake of 500,000 permanent residents by 2025, over twice the number before Justin Trudeau took power in 2015. Aligning with Skuterud, Yakabuski points out that while Canada’s overall GDP has grown, per capita GDP (or per capita income), a far more meaningful indicator of standard of living, has not kept pace and has even declined in recent quarters.

Yakabuski notes that while the federal government seems to have taken as an article of faith the Century Initiative’s assertion that “A larger population is key for the economic prosperity that makes possible what we value, from high-quality healthcare and education to income security programs, cultural vibrancy and a healthy environment,” this is not exactly how things are working out.

“Without a major course correction,” Yakabuski writes, “Canada faces a grim future of unaffordable housing, substandard health care, dilapidated infrastructure and a shrinking tax base as, year by year, its inhabitants grow relatively poorer.”

Yakabuski also observes that labour productivity, or output per worker, has slumped since Trudeau began ramping up immigration levels. More immigration has not led businesses to become more productive.

In September 2023, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation projected that 3.5 million additional housing units, beyond those expected on a business-as-usual scenario, are needed in Canada by 2030 to return housing affordability to 2004 levels. This projection is based on a drop in the rate of population growth after 2025. If current immigration trends continue until 2030, CMHC predicts the housing shortfall would rise to four million by the end of the decade.

Referencing a tweet by Ontario Premier Doug Ford promising to build 1.5 million homes, Randall Denley points out in a July 2023 Ottawa Citizen article that this would happen over ten years, and that 100,000 homes are the most that have ever been built in the province in one year. But in just the previous 12 months, the province had grown by 500,000, the number equal to Canada’s new immigration target. Denley cites a Scotiabank report from the previous year that estimated that Ontario needs 650,000 additional dwelling units just to meet the national average and an Ontario Chamber of Commerce report that says that housing costs are sucking money out of other parts of the economy.

Tristan Hopper reports in October 2023 that “Canada’s birth rate has dropped off a cliff” and that its already low fertility rate had dropped to 1.33 children per woman. A Statistics Canada survey published the previous month, Hopper says, found that over one-third of young Canadians were setting aside plans for a family purely for financial reasons. Of Canadians in their twenties, StatsCan found that 38% did not believe they could afford to have a child in the next three years, with about 32% saying they doubted they’d be able to find “suitable housing” in which to care for a baby. The StatsCan survey found that children were increasingly becoming a marker of wealth. Ironically, the government gives Canada’s low fertility rate as a reason for very high immigration.

So it shouldn’t be too surprising that in a November 2023 opinion piece published in the National Post, retired diplomat Derek Burney asks Trudeau to “please take a walk in the snow” (referring to Trudeau’s father Pierre, who announced his retirement in February 1984, saying he had taken a walk in the snow). Criticizing Trudeau’s policies in a range of issues, Burney says that immigration has been treated simply as a numbers game, lacking analysis of social consequences such as inadequate housing and pressure on a crumbling health system. With current intake, meritocracy is not really part of the equation, Burney says, and we are not attracting people with needed skills, but intensifying ethnic, religious and cultural enclaves in Canada that will contribute more division than unity to the country.

The government is listening, but to whom?

How is the government reacting to expressions of concern that its policies are creating a generational housing crisis (to say nothing of a healthcare crisis, food bank crisis, and education crisis, among others)?

To quote Housing Minister Sean Fraser himself, in an October 13, 2023, interview on the CBC Radio program The Current: “If we want a country that benefits from a high growth trajectory,” the government will need to incentivize municipalities that are “not moving forward in a commensurate way with the housing crisis.”

Canadians must “benefit” from that high growth trajectory, even if it gives them exactly what they don’t want. After all, what is more important, their quality of life or the growth of the economy? The economy is a monster that must continuously grow by adding ever more economic production units (formerly known as people) even if this makes food and housing less affordable for residents and newcomers alike.

Fortunately for Fraser, some of Canada’s premiers have his back when it comes to pushing growth on the recalcitrant. Following the announcement of skyrocketing federal immigration targets, Doug Ford, the premier of Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, wasted no time in getting rid of laws and regulations that could impede the growth that he welcomes even as his province struggles to accommodate it.  As we described in an article in February 2023, Ford’s Conservative government passed bills (such as Bills 257, 23, and 39) to allow Minister’s Zoning Orders to override key provisions of Ontario’s Planning Act that prevent development of protected land and to give mayors of certain cities greater power to override city councils that don’t want to play ball. In November 2023, BC’s NDP government under Premier David Eby introduced legislation that essentially eliminated single-family zoning.

Conservative to NDP, when it comes to growth, Canada’s political leaders seem to belong to one and the same Uni-party.

At its current rate of growth, Canada will not only meet but exceed the Century Initiative’s glorious vision of 100 million Canadians by 2100. The Century Initiative, it seems, is the only entity that has the government’s ear.

As housing minister Sean Fraser noted, the high-growth trajectory that allegedly “benefits” Canada can be “frustrated by municipalities” – that is, the cities and towns that are forced to accommodate uninvited growth. Local people often don’t see the benefits of trading in greenspace for more neighbours and trees for towers.

While PIC has praised this phenomenon, known as “NIMBY” or “not in my back yard,” as a way of fighting back against growth, growth-promoters clearly see things differently. In addition to using “the stick” to enforce compliance, as Ontario and BC are doing, growth-promoters have created a movement called “YIMBY,” or “yes in my back yard,” which is also active in Canada. An important part of YIMBY is language and presentation. Douglas Todd reports in the Vancouver Sun that while in Kelowna, BC in November, Sean Fraser proclaimed his commitment to “legalizing housing.” This sounds so much nicer than what would more accurately be described as “overriding municipal bylaws and permits to impose growth.”  Fraser also talks about “inclusive zoning” and “equitable housing.” YIMBY activists hope to persuade residents to accept deregulation and mass upzoning with slogans like “Density rocks!”

Todd writes that YIMBY organizations in California have received millions of dollars in mostly corporate donations. He quotes Zelda Bronstein, the former head of the Berkeley Planning Commission, as calling YIMBY activists, “the growth machine’s shock troops.” “Using housing as a proxy for growth, they endow limitless expansion of population with a seductive moral charge.”

Interestingly, the Century Initiative also uses false morality to push a mass immigration scheme that hurts Canadians and benefits corporate interests. “Which side of history will Canada be on?”, is the loaded question one can find on its home page.

All good Ponzi schemes must come to an end

Years ago, I recall an acquaintance saying about immigration, “We are creating an underclass.” Now it seems that many Canadians are joining that underclass. In October 2016, then finance minister Bill Morneau said that Canadians need to get used to a “job churn” – to short-term stints of employment in precarious jobs. Just one year later, Trudeau’s government announced its first big hike in immigration. What better way to ensure that businesses always have access to Mikal Skuterud’s “long lines of workers outside their doors competing with each other to get those scarce jobs” than to bring in hundreds of thousands of newcomers each year?

As one commentator sarcastically wrote in response to PIC’s June tweet about Canada reaching the 40 million milestone with a growth rate exceeding that of almost all countries in the world: “Yay! We beat Africa! Third World status is within our reach!” With the rise in poverty, homelessness and food insecurity in Canada, in addition to our increasingly stressed health and social services, we may get to that Third World status even sooner than we reach the Century Initiative’s milestone of 100 million.

By definition, all Ponzi schemes eventually collapse, and Canada’s immigration Ponzi scheme is showing signs of stress. As recent articles in the mainstream media show, a discussion on growth has been started. Since the government is refusing to listen, Canadians will have to drive that discussion forward themselves. Let’s keep doing that, to hasten that collapse.

Madeline Weld, Ph.D.
President, Population Institute Canada

Tel: (613) 833-3668
Email: mail@populationinstitutecanada.ca
www.populationinstitutecanada.ca

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Population Institute Canada’s website (populationinstitutecanada.ca) on January 19th, 2024. It is republished on Dominion Review with permission of the author. 

All content on this website is copyrighted, and cannot be republished or reproduced without permission. 

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