An ArmchairMayor.ca editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
THERE’S A WAY to look at the immigration issue logically, to remain compassionate about it but to set aside the distrust and suspicion.
The fact is, we need immigration. Let’s start by acknowledging that. A look at data from the recently released 2016 census leaves no doubt. Between 2011 and 2016, Canada’s population increased by 1.7 million people or five per cent. B.C.’s numbers went up 5.6 per cent; Kamloops increased by 5.4 per cent (reaching 90,280 people) and the Thompson Nicola Regional District including the city by 3.3 per cent (reaching 132,663 people).
Well, you say, what’s wrong with that? Steady but not overwhelming growth. Sounds good.
But only a third of the increase was natural, that is, the difference between the number of births and deaths. The other two-thirds came from migratory increase, which is the difference between the number of immigrants and emigrants.
Low fertility and an aging population are expected to increase this trend in coming years. In other words, if we shut down the borders today, our population would start declining.
Even if we wanted to simply maintain our current population of roughly 36.5 million people, we would need to encourage people from other countries to come join us in this great Canadian mosaic.
Therefore, the only thing left to debate is how to manage the influx. Where are the gaps that need filling? For example, we need more doctors. We also need more modest-paying service industry employees, more skilled labour.
The Venture Kamloops labour market study two years ago found that in our region, about half the new employees we’ll need over the next decade will have to have some form of post-secondary education. More than 34,000 new hires will be required. Of those, a quarter will be low-skilled, roughly another quarter semi-skilled and about the same number professional or technical.
There will be a shortfall of more than 10,000 workers in the next 10 years. So, clearly, here at home, we face some very specific challenges, and we will need immigrants.
The other part of managing immigration, of course, is whether we bring people in based on what they look like, who they worship, what kind of food they eat, or what colour their skin is. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Canada to be a place that discriminates on that basis. And I hope we’ll always have room for refugees of war, famine and disaster.
We can and should, of course, vet new folks for safety and security. We don’t want criminals or terrorists but we want a fair system of vetting.
And that’s where all sides of the debate should focus their energies — on reaching agreement on a fair and targeted approach to welcoming the people we need to sustain ourselves, and set aside fear-mongering and recrimination.