Trudeau Targets More Immigration Even With Borders All But Shut

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The Canadian government is sticking to its ambitious plans for bringing newcomers into the country, even as its borders remain essentially closed.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino is leaning against scaling back the government’s immigration targets for the coming years, according to two people familiar with the matter. That includes bringing in 351,000 new permanent residents in 2021 — the most in a century. The government will update its three-year projections within the next month.

Since coming to power in 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has sought to accelerate immigration, a policy that before Covid-19 struck had helped drive the fastest pace of population growth in three decades. Sticking to that policy could be a challenge.

Current travel restrictions and borders closures have sapped the flow of people into Canada. A high unemployment rate that looks likely to persist, and the fact Trudeau’s minority government must rely on support from opposition political parties to pass legislation, pose additional challenges.

In March, Mendicino unveiled a plan toincrease immigration over the next three years — targeting 341,000 permanent residents in 2020, 351,000 in 2021, and 361,000 in 2022.

So far, the 2020 numbers aren’t even close.

Covid Fears

Between January and August, Canada admitted 128,430 permanent residents. If the flow returns to 2019 levels, that number will rise to 240,000, or about 70% of the target, according to Andrew Agopsowicz, an economist at Royal Bank of Canada. But even that may be optimistic.

It “may be possible if people have been delaying their move to Canada,” Agopsowicz said by email. “Of course, increased fears of a Covid resurgence may impact these plans.”

A similar trend has emerged in study permits as well, as international students have largely been unable to travel to Canada.

Mendicino’s office has consulted with various business, labor and settlement organizations to gauge the current demand for immigration. The minister is expected to announce the new targets by Nov. 1, which is the deadline for the department to present its plans before Parliament.

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