Canada’s enduring poll on immigration has revealed a significant decline in public endorsement for high volumes of newcomers amid worsening housing affordability and availability.
According to a survey conducted by the Environics Institute in collaboration with Century Initiative, 44% of respondents currently agree that “there’s too much immigration to Canada,” a sharp increase from the previous year’s 27%. This 17-percentage-point surge marks the most considerable annual change since polling began in 1977.
Although those disagreeing with the statement still constitute the majority, accounting for just 51%, it is the lowest figure since 1998, dropping from the previous record high of 69%. This shift contradicts Canada’s immigration-friendly reputation, which historically provided an advantage in attracting skilled workers globally. The survey reflects escalating criticisms that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s administration has exacerbated existing housing shortages through immigration policies aimed at bolstering the workforce due to an aging population.
Over the year leading to July 1, Canada’s population grew by a record 2.9%, one of the world’s fastest rates, bringing the resident count to 40.1 million. “This is the first time in our research that a significant number of Canadians are now questioning the number of immigrants being accepted,” said Keith Neuman, author of the Environics report. “The main thing we’re seeing is that people are more concerned about the capacity of the country to absorb a lot of newcomers when things aren’t working as well as they were before.”
The Immigration Minister, Marc Miller, is anticipated to announce new annual permanent resident targets. Last year, the government aimed to welcome record numbers, targeting 485,000 permanent residents next year and half a million by 2025. In an August interview, Miller stated his intention to either maintain or elevate these targets due to the pressing need, refusing to reduce them.
For two decades, a majority of Canadians supported the idea that the country accepted an appropriate number of newcomers, setting Canada apart globally. However, this sentiment has shifted dramatically due to record population growth, high living costs, and soaring housing prices, posing a fresh challenge to an already beleaguered government facing an affordability crisis.
Among those who believe Canada accepts too many immigrants, concerns primarily revolve around newcomers driving up housing prices and reducing the availability of homes. Additional concerns include perceptions that immigrants strain public finances, negatively impact the economy, or contribute to overpopulation. Despite immigrants historically accounting for nearly all of Canada’s population increases, public opinion now suggests less necessity for newcomers to sustain population growth, with 47% of respondents opposing the idea compared to 38% the previous year.
Over the last two decades, public support for immigration was bolstered by the belief that it benefitted the economy, yet this conviction has also waned. Presently, nearly three-quarters believe immigration has a positive economic impact, a decline from 85% in the previous survey.
Lisa Lalande, CEO of Century Initiative, emphasized the importance of understanding Canadian opinion while maintaining Canada’s attractiveness to immigrants. She highlighted potential risks if issues like housing persist or if public support for immigration levels continues to decline, potentially affecting immigrants’ interest in moving to Canada.