Minister begs for help to resist public "pushback" on immigration levels


OTTAWA – Canada’s economic development minister says the federal Liberal government is encountering public “pushback” on its immigration plans from Canadians who fear for their jobs.

Navdeep Bains says newcomers create jobs in Canada and is urging people to see immigration not as a social issue, but as a key driver of economic growth.

Bains is asking the business community to help sell immigration as something that can increase prosperity and opportunity for Canadians.

He says people need to understand that bringing in newcomers will give the country a competitive advantage.

The minister says the government has to do a better job of telling that story.

Bains made the comments today while speaking to business leaders at a economic summit in Ottawa sponsored by the Public Policy Forum.

“The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy,” Bains said. “When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it’s good for the economy, we still get pushback.”

He asked his audience to pitch in.

“I need your help, and the help of many in this room, to change that conversation, because I can tell you I’m hitting a bit of challenge within government in having this conversation.”

Some worry that immigration might be viewed negatively because there is high unemployment in some parts of the country.

“Overall, how do we explain it to Canadians? Because they’ll view it as somebody taking away their jobs.”

That’s what needs to change, he said.

“I think we need to change the conversation to say, it’s not a social policy it’s an economic policy. It’s important to our economic agenda, our innovation agenda.

“If we bring the right people, the motivated people, they’ll create more jobs and more opportunities for Canadians.”

There are a lot of immigrant success stories, he added, including that of his own father who arrived with seven dollars in his pocket, worked three jobs for a time and then went on to start his own company, which employed 20 people.

“That needs to be part of the narrative,” Bains said.

“We talk to and engage with Canadians and we explain to them that immigration policy is a good thing, it’s a competitive advantage, it’s how we’re genuinely going to grow.”

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