Canada’s economic growth is dependent on immigrants- “an engine”.

As the coronavirus pandemic raged across the country in March, Marco Mendicino, the federal minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, announced his plan to battle Canada’s looming demographic problem.

More than nine million baby boomers are set to retire over the next decade, creating a potential labour shortage that, if unchecked, could raise health-care costs, upend pension payments and halt the country’s economic growth.

Mendicino proposed adding a total of one million new permanent residents to Canada by the end of 2022, a slight increase that raises the annual immigration level to around one percent from 0.9 percent currently.

According to Mendicino “Welcoming more newcomers will help to address the demographic challenges of an aging population and to compete and win in a competitive global marketplace.”

Indeed, the coronavirus pandemic has placed the country on an unexpected detour that will have repercussions for decades, according to analysts.

“We need to be thinking about how we can turn our immigration system back on. We can’t just go into this turtling, not letting people in, because it’s such an important piece of our growth,” Andrew Agopsowicz, a senior economist at RBC Capital Markets, said.

Agriculture is largely powered by a temporary foreign workforce, but the number of agricultural workers from foreign countries was down 45 percent year over year in March, according to the RBC report.

And that decline is despite the federal government exempting this group from entry restrictions. It is even offering $1,500 to help offset the cost of a required two-week quarantine for these workers.

Universities also face a potential funding cliff with the borders closed. Foreign students on average pay triple the fees compared to domestic students.

It’s basically a revenue generator for post-secondary institutions.The students can get a work permit while they’re studying, and after they’ve completed their education, they’re able to apply to stay in Canada and seek permanent residency.

International students now compose 25 percent of the University of Toronto’s student body. If 20 percent decided not to study in Canada this year, the university could see a $200-million funding shortfall in a $3-billion budget.

The situation demonstrates why Mendicino believes immigration spurs innovation. By helping to fund universities, Canada develops research that launches businesses and attracts both investment and people.

A Statistics Canada report published on June 9 noted that companies owned by immigrants were 8.6 percent more likely to implement a product innovation than a company managed by Canadian-born individuals, and 20.1 percent more likely to implement innovative processes.

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