Diane Francis: Immigration pushes housing, healthcare to breaking point

Trudeau’s immigration policies took a toll on large urban areas such as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s push to increase immigration to unprecedented levels is hurting Canada’s healthcare system.

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The numbers reveal the problem. Last year, Canada welcomed 492,984 new immigrants, who will eventually be issued health cards, which entitle them to lifelong medical benefits. An additional 465,000 immigrants will arrive this year, plus another 485,000 in 2024 and 500,000 in 2025.

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Between 2016 and 2021, the Trudeau government admitted a record over 1.3 million permanent immigrants into the country, all of whom will require medical services. This has put a strain on large urban areas such as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, which have shouldered the burden of the influx because they are where the lion’s share of immigrants settle. Toronto and Vancouver, in particular, already suffer from health care shortages and unaffordable house prices.

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Feds set immigration targets with little regard for skills, the burden placed on welfare systems, or the impact on housing costs. As a result, many hospitals are reaching their limits. Doctors and nurses are in short supply, Canadians face long wait times for elective specialists and surgeries, and millions of people lack a GP.

Since I began emphasizing the connection between deteriorating health care and high immigration levels last year, little has changed. Recently, Immigration Secretary Sean Fraser responded with an embarrassingly inadequate policy solution, announcing that Ottawa would expedite immigration approvals for 2,000 health care workers.

This is not enough. The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario projects that Ontario alone will lack 33,000 nurses and personal support workers by 2028, despite provincial initiatives to promote college graduates.

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Canada’s immigration levels are disproportionate to other developed nations, taking in about four times as many immigrants as the United States on a per capita basis. To make matters worse, Ottawa’s selection is inept. Despite staggering immigration numbers, the federal government failed to address the shortage of skilled labor across the country by recruiting skilled tradesmen.

This push to significantly increase the population was concocted at a weekend rally in 2011 in Muskoka, Ont., led by Dominic Barton, who served as global chief executive officer of McKinsey and Co. before briefly becoming Canada’s ambassador to China, and former BlackRock Inc. honcho Mark Wiseman. They created a Toronto-based lobbying group called the Century Initiative, which believes Canada’s population should reach 100 million by 2100.

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The group estimates that, given declining birth rates, meeting the arbitrary 100 million target would require Canada to accept at least 500,000 immigrants a year, if not more. This has now become our official immigration policy, with the Trudeau Liberals targeting around half a million new immigrants a year.

The Century Initiative hopes to create mega-regions, increasing the Greater Toronto Area’s population from 8.8 million in 2016 to 33.5 million by the end of the century, Metro Vancouver’s population from 3.3 million to 11.9 million, and the National Capital Region from 1.4 million to 4.8 million.

Seven years of this crazy liberal immigration policy have taken a toll on the healthcare system and the housing market. And Canada will make matters worse by admitting over 753,000 international students this year, which will further drive up the cost of rents.

A CIBC report last year said that the admission of a huge number of newcomers in 2022, including some 955,000 non-permanent residents, represents an unprecedented swing in housing demand in a single year that is currently not fully reflected in official data.

This rampant immigration is taking its toll on Canada’s healthcare system and struggling housing market. It’s irresponsible.

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