The ebb tide

For years, a tide of immigrants has flowed into Canada, seeking better job opportunities, or in rare cases, refuge from some kind of persecution. Now, for the fifth successive year, that surge of people has ebbed; there has been a gradual increase in the number leaving Canada, and a small reduction in the total immigrating here.

That change cannot be a reflection of our economy, which relatively has been the best performing of any outside of Asia. That may be just past history.

The raw numbers reveal a consistent, slow increase in the total leaving Canada, a drop of approximately 8.6 per cent since 2003. Furthermore, as a percentage of the number coming here, the departing tally has risen from 15.6 per cent of the total immigrating, the low point in the year 2005, to 17.6 per cent last year. This change in the proportion obviously has not been very large, but its constant rise nevertheless is significant.

Our economic draw remained strong, but perhaps rising hostility to some non-European groups was a factor, although generally Canada heretofore seemed to be more of a tolerant society. Too, currency should have been an offsetting point. The sharp rise in the Canadian dollar should have added to the attraction of Canada to foreign workers. Every dollar in remittances a foreign worker sent home four years ago earned about one-third more nowadays in foreign currency. As the value of the Canadian dollar has climbed, the interest in moving here should have remained but that has not happened.

While the destination of emigrants is not tabulated by Statistics Canada, the usual goal has been the United States. However, that economy has been in the dumps.

The drop in housing and construction, which have employed many immigrants, especially newer arrivals, certainly has not been a magnet for many here who consequently are beginning to go home, say to Europe.

Politically, too, a downturn in immigration, now lower by 11 per cent from its peak two years ago, may be just what is needed to avoid some kind of back-lash against immigrants as our job creation here has slowed to a trickle; in Ontario job losses are occurring. The sluggish Ontario economy, clearly, the most favoured destination for most immigrants, surely has been a consideration for some potential incomers.

As more people emigrate from Canada and immigration slows, these changes in migration are important. Perhaps they are indications of an economy here that holds diminishing appeal for people from other countries.


Bruce Whitestone