Recent polling has aligned with the reality on the ground as Canadians want fewer immigrants, and fewer immigrants want to make Canada their forever home.
According to federal government data, Canada observed a sharp decline in permanent resident applications in July. The monthly volume of applications fell 15% to roughly 17,800, representing a 28% decline from the same period last year, reported Better Dwelling.
The shift came unexpectedly on the heels of record growth, with 181,300 applications processed this year since July — about 15% more than last year.
Year-to-date applications more than doubled before the past two monthly declines (31%).
According to a Nanos poll for the Globe and Mail, more than half (53%) of Canadians want fewer immigrants than quoted for this year — up from one in three (34%) in March.
In its 2023-2025 plan for immigration levels, Ottawa set its target of 465,000 new permanent residents this year, 485,000 in 2024 and 500,000 in 2025.
Only a third still support the current immigration targets, with regional support highest in British Columbia (43%).
People in the Prairies feverishly supported accepting fewer permanent residents (61%) than any other region nationwide.
Nik Nanos, co-founder of Nanos Research, attributed the sway in public opinion to “the pressure [immigration had] on housing affordability.”
“Regardless of Canada’s tradition of welcoming newcomers, there is a reality that people are wondering where the new people will live and what it might mean in terms of even more pressure on housing,” he told the Globe.
However, Better Dwelling reports that new permanent residents have had a minor impact on population growth, citing temporary residents driving growth in the short term.
Canada has been actively promoting its Express Entry program in recent years to attract skilled labour on temporary visas.
In 2022, Canada welcomed 1.1 million permanent and temporary residents — more than double the 430,000-person permanent resident target.
While the program is largely successful, recent data shows just 10,200 Express Entry applications this year — a 17.5% drop from 2022.
Though a down July doesn’t demonstrate a pattern, annual growth in the second fiscal quarter (+8.3%) is half the rate of the first quarter (+16.2%) — making negative growth in newcomers possible.
However, many temporary residents are still coming to Canada on study permits, though not for the long run.
Nearly 1 in 48 people residing in Canada are currently on temporary visas — up from 1 in 34 people last year — but the data suggests students aren’t too keen on staying.
The Nanos poll found that Québec had the highest support (59.7%) for reducing the number of international students, compared with 48% in B.C.
Roughly three in five (57%) Canadians aged 35 to 54 also want fewer international students.
Over half (55%) of Canadians want less than the 900,000 international students pegged for federal approval this year — more than double since Justin Trudeau became prime minister in 2015.
By the end of 2022, Canada had 807,260 international students.
Despite study permit issuance rising 35% in the second quarter, the share of those on study permits turning to permanent residency is relatively low, reported Better Dwelling.
Of the people on temporary visas last year, Immigration Canada upgraded roughly 19,700 to a permanent resident status that previously had a study permit in 2022.
“The reality is we’ve got temporary immigration programs that were never designed to see such explosive growth in such a short period of time,” Housing Minister Sean Fraser said at the cabinet retreat last month.
He acknowledged that while the federal government sets yearly targets for permanent residency programs, they do not impose caps on study permits, primarily driven by demand.
Fraser said this has placed an “unprecedented level of demand” on the job market and an even “more pronounced” demand on the housing market.