Mr. Chair, it's a pleasure to appear once again before this committee.
As you know, in the coming years, immigration will play an increasingly important role in the economic growth and prosperity of our country.
One of the greatest challenges Canada will soon face, along with many other industrialized countries, will be labour shortages linked to our aging population. While immigration is certainly not a solution on its own to our demographic challenges, it plays an important role in helping us to address those challenges. Now more than ever, it's important that we have a robust immigration system in place that can meet our current and future economic and demographic needs.
Canada has a tremendous opportunity to leverage our well-managed immigration system in support of our country's future.
That is why the government appreciates the committee's interest in this issue. As Canadians, we all have a vested interest in this very important topic.
To provide a bit more context, in 1971 there were 6.6 people of working age for each senior. By 2012, the worker-to-retiree ratio had dropped to 4.2 to 1. The projection is for a ratio of 2:1 by 2036, less than 20 years from now. Five million Canadians are set to retire by then, and in two decades almost 100% of Canada's net annual population growth will be through immigration. It already accounts for 65% of the growth today.
While Canadian workers are among the most educated and skilled in the world, in order to maintain our strong economic position globally it is crucial for Canada to attract more talented individuals with the skills our economy needs. Immigration, therefore, will ensure that we are able to continue increasing the size of our labour force and grow our economy.
Immigration will also help to support our much-cherished health care system, public pensions, and other social programs in the decades to come.
Our need for increased immigration is supported by the government's research as well as by independent research conducted by various organizations. The most recent census revealed that immigration is a driving force in meeting Canada's demographic and labour market challenges. In 2016 labour force growth was in large part due to increased immigration, with immigrants accounting for nearly one-quarter of Canada's labour force. Similarly, between 2006 and 2016 about two-thirds of Canada's population growth was the result of immigration.
Several observers have also called for significant increases in immigration to support Canada's long-term prosperity. For example, according to the Conference Board of Canada, in order to sustain a healthy level of economic growth across the country, we will need to bump our immigration levels up to 1% of our population within the next two decades.
The government agrees that investing in immigration will pay off for Canada. That is why I presented to Parliament an historic multi-year immigration levels plan.
First and foremost, the multi-year aspect of this plan is key.
Increasing our immigration levels responds to recommendations made by this committee and this approach is strongly supported by the provinces and by settlement service providers. That is because it allows governments and partner organizations to better plan for increases and to ensure there's the capacity to successfully bring in these newcomers and support their successful integration. As we increase our immigration levels over the next few years, we'll also continue to ensure that our immigration system remains well managed and operates with the safety and security of Canadians as its top priority. Under this plan, we will responsibly grow the number of permanent residents that Canada welcomes each year. Over the next three years, we'll increase our immigration levels from approximately 0.8% of the population to 0.9% of the population by 2020.
In terms of the actual admissions, this will see level increases of 310,000 in 2018, 330,000 in 2019, and 340,000 in 2020. These are the highest admissions in more than 100 years, and relative to the population, this is also the highest percentage of immigration in more than 40 years. To respond to our current and future economic needs, 60% of the growth that I spoke about over the next three years will come through our economic programs. Prominent among these programs is our provincial nominee program, which helps meet regional labour market needs and distributes the real benefits of immigration all across the country.
As well, the number of skilled immigrants we select through our express entry system will grow over this time frame, which will mean more highly skilled talent for our labour market. At the same time we recognize the importance of non-economic immigration as well. That is why we are also allocating more space each year for sponsored family members so that we can reunite more families with their loved ones in Canada.
We'll also continue to uphold our humanitarian traditions and maintain Canada's role as a global leader in offering protection to individuals in need. Refugee admissions will also increase in each of the next three years.
As you know, our settlement services, such as language training, employment services, and newcomer orientation, are linked to newcomers' success. As mentioned, the adoption of a multi-year plan approach helps us, but also our partners, better plan to meet the challenges and opportunities of immigration growth. Instead of planning admissions one year at a time, as has been the norm for the last 15 years, planning admissions over three years will ensure that the government and our service provider partners are in a better position to plan for newcomer-specific settlement needs.
The increased immigration levels under this plan are projected to cost approximately $440 million over the next three years, and this will be detailed further in budget 2018. With these additional resources, we will be able to address the increased demands placed on our global processing network and our settlement programs. This additional funding will enable my department and its partners to process and screen more applications for permanent residency in a timely manner, while we continue to provide high-quality settlement and integration services to newcomers.
We expect that higher immigration levels will help us improve the operations of our immigration system, reduce application backlogs, and improve processing times for our clients. This is because level increases in certain categories will create more admission spaces. This will also allow the department to process more applications each year and admit more people, thereby reducing backlogs and wait times. In particular, we expect to see real progress in reducing processing times in family, caregiver, and refugee programs.
Faster processing also ensures that employers can more quickly and effectively get the talent they need. With the multi-year levels plan, the government is positioning our immigration system to best serve our country's current and future economic needs. It represents a major investment in our country's prosperity and will also ensure that immigration continues to contribute to our diversity and our nation's strong cultural fabric.
For all the reasons I've described today, our historic multi-year immigration levels plan will ultimately benefit all Canadians, now and into the future.
Thank you very much.
I look forward to answering your questions.
Every single member of this committee called on the government to repeal this section. Canada is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. For the last 40 years we've actually been in violation of this convention, so what's another 120 days, I suppose, for us to review this? Then after that—I don't know—what's another x number of days for us to proceed? The government doesn't seem to think there's an urgency to this.
Mr. Tomlinson came here today, with the HIV/AIDS network. He cited an example whereby people with HIV and AIDS, who will qualify, who can contribute to Canadian society, are being rejected based on this provision, notwithstanding their contributions. This thus affects many, many people.
I feel the urgency for us to act, but the government is still waiting and somehow we seem to think it's okay.
Committee members at this table also said:
||I must say that at this point in time I do not see how raising the threshold and excluding fewer people changes the fact that excluding anyone is prima facie discriminatory and violates Canadian values.
A committee member actually said this. Others equated this policy to slavery, in terms of how we approach our immigration policy.
Does the minister not feel the urgency to act, or does he think that it's okay and that we can continue to wait?
Thank you, Minister, for coming here today.
I think what we're trying to achieve here is about our overall demographics. Since 1970 we have had fewer people working to support retirees. We had around six people working to support one retiree, and in 2030 that is projected to be two people working for one retiree.
I have some numbers here from Statistics Canada, now that we have reinstated the long-form census, thanks to our government.
In Canada, the average age of an individual is around 40. In Germany, the average median age is 46.1. We definitely see this number as very alarming, and this is why we need to ensure that we have more younger individuals who are coming to our country, ensuring their success in employment, so that we can make sure we have sustainable numbers so that we can sustain retirees. Other countries, such as Nigeria and Uganda, have a very low median age at around 15 years of age.
In my particular riding in Kitchener South—Hespeler, it's actually a little bit lower than the national average. It's kind of a younger population filled with commuters going to the GTA, at 37.1.
With the levels plan that was introduced recently, we're welcoming in 330,000 permanent residents in 2019, and 340,000 in 2020. Those numbers are up from previous years. For example in 2014, they were between 240,000 and 265,000.
Minister, with these numbers, the examples I gave of Germany's and our numbers, with a growing and aging population, can you elaborate more on why we need such great talent here at a younger age to sustain our retirees?
In terms of how that visa policy works, it's a broad framework that's multi-faceted, that looks across a range of issues and criteria to help us to assess whether it would meet both our program objectives and our national interests. Socio-economic trends in the countries, migration issues, travel document integrity, border management, safety and security issues, human rights issues, and bilateral and multilateral issues are all considered, as well as the level of co-operation and collaboration that we have with the countries that we are working with on these issues.
All of those things are taken into account, and certainly we recognize in our visa policy framework the importance of tourism, of business travellers coming to Canada, from an economic perspective and also from a family perspective, in terms of striking the right balance between facilitation and integrity in all of our programs.
Today we've heard a lot of questions, and I think we all recognize the advantages of the direction that the minister, along with his team, is taking. We've heard from the advisory council on economic growth, from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and from Dan Kelly, the President and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. This is a good thing. It's good for our economy, it's good for our social fabric, and it's also good for those we are going to affect from overseas.
That said, today we heard a lot of questions. Unfortunately, many times the minister and you weren't given the opportunity to answer fully the questions being asked. My question to you is twofold. First, what kind of impact will this plan have on wait times and backlogs in various streams. Second, what will this plan do to improve family reunification?
What I'm most interested in, however, members of staff, is the filling in of the gaps that you weren't allowed to fill in before on account of being interrupted while giving your answers.
We are actually very excited with the adoption of a multi-year levels plan this year. This is a new thing. I think it's fair to say that our provincial colleagues and also the service provider organizations who work in this area are very happy about it as well. The reason for that is that it allows us a planning horizon in order to be prepared as we increase immigration levels. It allows us to be prepared from a processing perspective, and it allows our service providers to be prepared to welcome and integrate new Canadians into the country.
I think that the multi-year plan, and the fact that the levels are increasing over a period of years, really will help us to plan to address some of the processing time issues that we have seen over many years.
As you know, we end up with backlogs when the intake into a particular stream isn't matched by the levels plan, so that we don't have enough levels to actually bring in the number of people who are coming and getting into the queue.
Over time, the department has made significant progress on that due to important initiatives that have been taken. For example, on spousal sponsorships, with increasing inventory, we have managed to decrease the inventory from 75,000 to 15,000. The processing time for new applications is within 12 months, and because we've built into this multi-year levels plan an increase in levels every year, we anticipate being able to keep it at 12 months.
Similarly, for parents and grandparents, we have limited the intake, but we have increased the number of parents and grandparents that will be admitted over a number of years. That also will allow us to make progress on the processing times on the parents and grandparents front.
Finally, on the program for private sponsors of refugees, I think one thing that is built into the levels plan is a very significant increase in the number of privately sponsored refugees that will be brought in every year. Again, the purpose of that is expressly to reduce the processing time and to bring in those people who are waiting and who have been waiting for quite a while to come.
I'm not going to suspend the meeting, if you wouldn't mind just sitting so that I don't lose too much time, because we have to get to the House for 2 p.m.
The clerk reminds me that it's my call whether or not we have a meeting on Tuesday. However, I don't like to do that without advice and input from committee members. I think the most expeditious way of doing this—I'm not suggesting a recorded vote but a show of hands, and it would be whether or not.... I'm not going to judge. Some people want to be in the lock-up. Some people want time to prepare other things. I would like a show of hands of those of you who would like me to call a meeting on Tuesday.
I see five of you.
What about those of you who would not like me to call a meeting on Tuesday? I have two noes, and I've got the rest....
I am getting a sense that we should have a meeting. I just wanted to check that out with you. If you want to be in the lock-up, that means it will be your responsibility to get a substitute for the meeting.
Thank you again to the officials from our department. Your answers have been helpful for the committee and we will look forward to some written responses for some very specific questions on which the committee asked for more detail.
Thank you. The meeting is adjourned.