March 15, 2010
Globe and Mail

Talk to most financial advisers, and they will stress diversification – a mix of stocks, bonds and cash – as a sound investment strategy for growth. Canada’s population is also growing through a form of diversification. We pick and choose the cream of a crop of extremely talented immigrants to build out our labour market. However, in the last decade, the financial results of our immigration policy have not proved as healthy as Canadians would like to believe. This is a growing problem, and one Canada ignores at its peril.

According to a recent Statistics Canada report, the diversity of our population will increase significantly during the next two decades. By 2031, between 25 per cent and 28 per cent of the population could be foreign-born, surpassing the proportion of 22 per cent observed between 1911 and 1931 (the highest during the twentieth century).

Meanwhile, The Changing Canadian Workplace, a report published by TD Bank’s Don Drummond, had worrying news about a persistent wage gap. The gap between the median wage of a Canada-born university graduate and her immigrant counterpart is especially large: the immigrant earns an astonishing $27,020 less per year.

Combine these findings with Canada’s demographic projections, and the country’s future taxable income base looks a whole lot smaller. Add in the coming fiscal challenges – the structural costs of health care for the retiring baby boomer generation and the costs of tackling climate change – and the reasons why policies designed to ensure our immigrants’ economic success should be top of the agenda become immediately apparent.

The Conference Board of Canada, the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity and the Toronto Board of Trade have all stressed this issue, with the Board of Trade urging that the budget include up to $920-million for employers of small- and medium-sized businesses, to attract and retain skilled immigrants.

In Budget 2010, no such support was forthcoming. Instead, the budget delivered $30-million for skills development – which includes aboriginals and the perennially unemployed. Immigrants are a footnote. Elsewhere in the document, there’s a nod to housing support for recently-arrived immigrants. And that’s about it.

Canada’s future prosperity is tied to the economic success of its immigrants. Perennial wage gaps indicate success for immigrants is not a given. It is regrettable that amidst the ongoing stimulus spending, investments to ensure immigrants integrate as speedily and successfully into Canada’s economy as possible are not being made.



Reference: Globe and Mail