Immigration For a Prosperous Saskatchewan: Influx of immigration a positive trend.

Commentary, Immigration, Meredith Lilly

Increased immigration to Saskatchewan expands the economy and enriches the cultural landscape.

For the people of Saskatchewan, the past year has brought the heated immigration debate much closer to home. According to Statistics Canada, Saskatoon and Regina are currently among Canada’s top-three fastest growing cities, and for the first time in recent history the population boom is attributed primarily to international immigration. Reactions to this influx of immigration have been mixed, but there is ample evidence that immigration is good for the economic and the social future of the province.

Immigration creates opportunity for native-born Canadians

The fear that immigrants take jobs from Canadians is an oft-repeated, though unsubstantiated, concern.  The underlying assumption fueling this fear is that the number of available jobs is always fixed, and that there is no room for expansion to accommodate newcomers. This simply is not the case. Immigration increases the economic welfare of native-born Canadians by filling positions left empty by our dwindling birthrate, stimulating investment, and enlarging the economy by increasing the demand for goods and services. An influx of people brings more wage-earners as well as more consumers.

In addition to expanding the economy, immigrants tend to be drawn from either highly skilled or unskilled groups of workers. They thus complement the moderately skilled native-born workforce rather than compete with it. Though there is little Canadian data available, there is evidence from other countries that this combination of complementarity and economic growth leads to higher wages for native-born workers.

In these ways, the principles behind the free movement of people are similar to that of the free trade of goods. Both increase prosperity by allowing for the greatest market efficiency and promoting long-term economic growth.

Immigration leads to lower crime rates

According to The International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy, new immigrants have a lower crime rate than native-born Canadians. Though new immigrants often face a host of socioeconomic obstacles said to increase the risk of criminality, the combination of aspirations to integrate into and excel within the workforce, along with the threat of deportation, has led to a remarkably low incidence of crime. Canada’s law-abiding immigrant population has attracted widespread recognition from nations across the world.

Canadian immigrant communities are exemplary. The people who choose to leave their homes and come to the province do so with a sincere desire to establish a better life for themselves and their families, and they most often succeed.

Immigration is especially important in rural areas

Immigration may hold the key to rural revitalization in the province. While the population of Saskatoon and Regina are booming, there remains a vast swath of rural communities in decline. After 75 years of continually shrinking rural population statistics, the Saskatchewan ministry of immigration is aggressively courting rural migrants through initiatives such as the Immigrant Nominee Program’s Young Farmer stream.

At a recent conference hosted by The Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation, Ray Bollman from Statistics Canada argued that though rural decline is a complex problem, increasing immigration to rural areas by way of both national and community-based initiatives is a vital piece of the puzzle. Settling in rural areas is good for the newcomers as well, who, on average, integrate more quickly and with a greater quality of life in smaller centres.

Immigration contributes to Canadian culture

Finally, immigration need not be seen as a threat to Canadian cultural identity, though it is indeed a source of change. Immigration brings the greater cultural diversity that enriches our society. Culture is continually changing, and it cannot survive in a vacuum. Its spontaneous and dynamic nature acknowledges the plurality of people while giving a sense of belonging is what makes it valuable.

As Canadians, we are subject to claims that many things threaten to erode our culture, from unregulated cellphone plans to unregulated radio playlists. But there is little justification for such defensive postures. Any type of culture that can only be preserved by placing it behind a velvet rope is artificial, and is doomed to fail. On the other hand, the type of culture that is enshrined in the popular imagination, in all its diversity of thought and heritage, laws and traditions, is remarkably resilient. Such is the culture of Saskatchewan.