OTTAWA – Leaders of big companies worried about Canada’s aging demographics have urged political parties not to ignite the immigration debate ahead of this fall’s federal election.
The president of the lobby group representing the leaders of Canada’s largest companies said he had already raised the issue with party leaders going into campaign mode ahead of the October poll.
With signs of public concern over immigration, Canadian Business Council President and CEO Goldy Hyder said he had pleaded the economic benefits of opening the doors of the country to a greater number of people.
Speaking to reporters Thursday in Ottawa, Hyder said the country was “10 years from a real demographic tipping point”.
“What I said to the political party leaders on this issue is this: please, please, do your best to resist making immigration the issue of this election. I could not be clearer, “he said.
The message of business leaders comes at a time when public and political debate is focused on immigration, refugees and border security, to the point of becoming a tempting election issue for parties fighting hard for the electorate.
A survey released this month by Ekos Research suggests a significant increase in the proportion of people who think there are too many visible minorities in Canada, although the general opposition to immigration has remained virtually unchanged. past years and remains lower than it was in the 1990s.
Canada has increased its immigration thresholds and plans to welcome more people. The Immigration Department’s goal is to bring in nearly 331,000 newcomers this year, 341,000 in 2020 and 350,000 in 2021, according to its report to Parliament in 2018.
As the baby boomer generation ages, experts say Canada – like other Western countries – will need a steady influx of workers to fill jobs and fund social programs, such as public health care, through income tax.
Promise of Legault
Mr. Hyder also referred to the election promise of Quebec Premier François Legault to reduce annual immigration levels by 20 per cent in his province. Mr. Legault won the election after making this wish, even though Quebec faces significant demographic challenges.
Earlier this week, the Bank of Canada highlighted the economic importance of immigration in its monetary policy report. Carolyn Wilkins, senior deputy governor of the central bank, said that without immigration, the Canadian labor force would stop growing within five years.
Hyder said he was part of a group called the Century Initiative, which would like to see Canada, a country of about 37 million people, reach 100 million by 2100.
The group was co-founded by Mr. Hyder and several others, including two members of the influential Trudeau Economic Advisory Council – Dominic Barton, Managing Director of the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., and Mark Wiseman, a senior executive of the giant BlackRock Investment Management. Mr. Hyder was a business consultant before joining the Business Council of Canada and was a key contributor to federal Progressive Conservative Party leader Joe Clark.
The Century Initiative wants Canada to increase its population responsibly in order to contribute to its economic potential.