A decline in public support for high levels of immigration in Canada has been observed amid worsening housing affordability and availability, as indicated by the country’s longest-standing immigration poll.
According to a survey conducted by the Environics Institute in partnership with Century Initiative, 44% of respondents now agree that “there’s too much immigration to Canada,” marking a significant increase from 27% last year—the largest annual change recorded since polling began in 1977.
Although those opposing this statement still represent the majority, accounting for just 51%, it’s the lowest figure since 1998, down from the previous highest record of 69%. This shift signals a reversal in a country known for its immigrant-friendly image, providing an advantage in attracting skilled workers globally.
The survey underscores mounting criticism directed at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government for exacerbating housing shortages through immigration policies aimed at bolstering the workforce against economic decline due to an aging population. Over the course of a year until July 1, Canada witnessed a record population growth rate of 2.9%, among the world’s highest, reaching 40.1 million residents.
Keith Neuman, the author of the Environics report, expressed that this marks the first time a significant number of Canadians are questioning the influx of immigrants accepted into the country. Neuman mentioned in an interview that people are increasingly concerned about the nation’s capacity to accommodate a large number of newcomers, especially when existing systems are strained.
Immigration Minister Marc Miller is expected to announce new annual permanent resident targets, previously aiming for record numbers of 485,000 next year and half a million by 2025. He expressed the intention to maintain or increase these targets, acknowledging that the need for immigrants remains considerable.
For the past two decades, a majority of Canadians embraced immigration; however, the recent surge in population, rising living costs, and housing prices has led to a stark change in sentiment. This shift poses a fresh challenge for a government already grappling with an outcry over affordability issues.
Among those who believe Canada accepts too many immigrants, reasons include concerns about increased housing prices and reduced housing availability due to newcomers. Other common concerns include the strain on public finances, negative economic impact, and fears of overpopulation.
While immigrants have been the primary contributors to Canada’s population growth in recent years, public opinion has shifted against the idea that immigration is necessary for population increase. Nearly half of the respondents now oppose the notion that immigration is vital for the country’s population growth, compared to 38% the previous year.
Moreover, the belief that immigration benefits the economy has declined, with only about three-quarters of respondents believing it has a positive economic impact, down from 85% in the prior survey.
Lisa Lalande, CEO of Century Initiative, emphasized the importance of addressing Canadian concerns while maintaining the country’s appeal to immigrants. She highlighted that unresolved issues like housing and declining public support for immigration levels could potentially influence immigrants’ interest in moving to Canada.