Canada’s immigration policy needs to be updated and improved to address these two challenges. Four specific actions should be taken by the Government of Canada to boost economic growth and increase prosperity for all Canadians.
1. Increase annual permanent economic immigration from 300,000 to 450,000 over 5 years (translating to an increase of about 75K principal applicants and about 75K of their family members) to expand workforce growth and counter the drag from slowing population growth and aging
2. Facilitate entry for senior and specialized talent by streamlining permanent and temporary entry programs to be faster and less burdensome on employers to help give high-growth and innovative companies the managerial capacity and skills they need to scale and be globally competitive
3. Rethink Express Entry points allocations to qualify more international students studying in Canada for permanent residency so that firms can tap into an already-integrated pool of young, educated talent
4. Improve national accreditation standards to create the conditions for all immigrants to Canada to reach their economic potential, to the benefit of all Canadians
These recommendations will address current drags on growth from an aging population and specialized talent shortages, but they are only part of the answer. For immigration to fully offset the impact of Canada’s impending demographic squeeze, annual permanent economic immigration would need to nearly double from the current level of about 300,000 per year – a much more dramatic increase than the 50 percent increase recommended here.3 Further, not all talent gaps can or should be addressed through immigration. Fast-growing firms may face no alternative given the immediacy of their talent requirements, but over the longer term both governments and employers should ensure that domestic training and education programs are responsive to emerging labour market needs.