Each year I help over 500 clients file their Canadian and US tax returns as well as plan for both their Canadian and US investment accounts. I also regularly help new US clients plan for their move to Canada.
On October 30th, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) released its Immigration Levels Plan for 2021 to 2023. The announced targets are history-making, with never-before-seen goals for each of the coming three years. Specifically, the country hopes to welcome:
- 401,000 new immigrants in 2021
- 411,000 in 2022
- 421,000 in 2023.
The only other time in Canadian history with this number surpassed 400,000 was in 1913, just before the First World War. The Plan calls for about 60 percent of all immigrants to be admitted under the economic class programs, including the Express Entry pathway and the Provincial Nominee Program. The targets for these programs are as follows:
- 208,500 admissions in 2021
- 213,900 admissions in 2022
- 217,500 admissions in 2023.
The Plan lays out the remaining numbers to be realized through family reunification programs, and immigrants admitted as refugees, protected persons, or for humanitarian or compassionate reasons.
The reason behind these historically aggressive targets can be summarized in two words: economic growth.
Since 2016, Canada has seen two dramatic trends overlapping: an aging population and a relatively low birth rate. According to a Statistics Canada report from September 2019, there are currently more seniors (aged 65 and over) than children (aged 14 and under) in the country. And this trend will continue through at least for the next 50 years according to all projections. By 2068, seniors could account for as much as 30 percent of the country’s population.
As the population ages, the percentage of working-age Canadians (15 to 64 years) will continue to decline as a share of the total population. In 2018, that percentage was relatively stable at 67 percent; by 2068, that number could be as low as 58 percent. If lifespans continue to increase as past trends indicate, Canada could have well over 60,000 Canadians aged 100 and over by 2068, up from just 10,000 in 2018.
Regardless of which demographic model you look at, Canada needs a robust immigration inflow to continue growing its population and economy at a rate sufficient to support current and future government spending.
The importance of these announced levels is underscored by the impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic, which has reduced actual immigration into Canada due to border closures. Contrary to some reports, IRCC did not stop immigration in response to the pandemic. It has continued to process applications as it had before the outbreak. But a substantial number of immigrants approved for residency in the country have been unable to travel due to pandemic-related restrictions. So, while the number of processed applications remains strong, the actual number of new residents arriving in Canada has decreased substantially in 2020.
This trend is more important than ever, given that the pandemic has weakened the Canadian economy and increased pressure on provincial and federal government spending, at least for the short term.
The good thing is that a substantial majority (over 80 percent) of Canadians recognize and agree that a strong immigration inflow helps the economy and job creation. A full seven in ten Canadians favor the country admitting skilled immigrants who might be denied entry into the U.S., for instance. Unfortunately, this level of support is not reflected across the political landscape. Data reveals as much as a 20 percent gap between the more liberal parties (more accepting of immigration levels) and the more conservative parties (less accepting of immigration levels).
That said, a recent poll by Canada’s Environics Institute confirms that “that Canadians are bucking the trend towards polarization that is overtaking other democracies.” The same study shows that, as a whole, Canadians “are feeling less — not more — pessimistic about our jobs and our incomes today than in the past,” which bodes well for an economic recovery that embraces the role of new and recent immigrants, includes a value-driven recalibration of what it means to care for the vulnerable sectors within the population, and that kick-starting growth does not have to come at the expense of long-held values.
For Americans contemplating a move northward in the coming months or years, both the IRCC targets and openness of Canadians to newcomers might prove a welcome respite from what many in the U.S. see as an increasingly polarized and polarizing culture. As I have discussed in a recent blog, relocating to Canada offers several positive opportunities, from lower housing costs and quieter politics to universal healthcare and cultural diversity.
If you have any questions about the recent Immigration Levels Plan, Canadian demographic trends, or the financial and tax implications of relocation, please contact me. I will do what I can to answer as quickly and thoroughly as possible.