On a visit to Guelph Monday, Canada’s immigration minister says there is a link between the Royal City’s success in settling and integrating newcomers to Canada and its nation-leading unemployment rate.
“I think Guelph is an example of a community that is really harnessing the power of immigration to power its local economy,” said Ahmed Hussen, Immigration minister of Canada. “I believe the two are linked.”
Hussen said he was in Guelph on Sunday and Monday to see in person the support agencies that have made the city so successful in settling newcomers.
One reason newcomers flock to Guelph is the availability of jobs, said Hussen. He pointed to the most recent job statistics, which show Guelph having a 1.9 per cent unemployment rate for January 2019.
On Monday morning, Hussen and Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield met privately with Jim Estill of Danby Products, Inc., who received the Order of Ontario in 2017 for his efforts to sponsor 61 Syrian refugee families.
“Guelph has welcoming infrastructure for settling and integrating newcomers and has amazing leaders in the business community, like Jim Estill, who is contributing both to the economy but also socially by helping to do his part in the integration of newcomers,” said Hussen.
Immigration in Canada is not just about compassion and family reunification, said Hussen, adding that accepting more immigrants makes sense for nation building.
When it took office three years ago, the Liberal government reversed some policies put in place by the previous Conservative government that Hussen said made it more difficult for newcomers to become citizens.
“We believe giving the newcomers the tools they need to succeed is not only good for them, it’s also good for Canada, because when newcomers succeed, Canada succeeds,” said Hussen. “Those who have lived in Canada, who are contributing as permanent residents who want to join the Canadian family should be able to do so.”
In 1972, there were seven working Canadians supporting each retiree, as of 2012, that number went down to four working Canadians supporting each retiree.
“If we do not continue to be ambitious with immigration, by 2036 we will have only two working Canadians supporting each retiree,” said Hussen. “With two working Canadians supporting each retiree, how will we be able to fund CPP, health care, infrastructure, housing, childcare? Let alone bring new programs like pharmacare? How can we maintain the standard of living that we have?”
“It’s also about being smart because believe me, there a lot of talented people in the world who are now making the decision to move to Canada as opposed to other countries because of our immigration system,” said Hussen.
On Monday afternoon, Hussen met with community stakeholders at the Immigrant Services Guelph-Wellington office.
Among the concerns raised at the meeting was a lack of housing. Hussen said he will take that feedback back to Ottawa.
“That’s good feedback to get — that we need to keep pushing on housing and make sure our record investments in housing flow down to communities like Guelph,” said Hussen.
Immigration will be among the primary issues to be brought up in the upcoming Federal election, said Hussen. He said the fear mongering and anti-immigrant rhetoric that has been seen in other countries in the world is coming to Canada.
“When you hear people say, ‘these immigrants are coming here and taking our jobs’, the facts are not supportive of that argument. Immigrants create jobs for Canadians and in fact grow our economy and they fill unfilled jobs,” said Hussen. “You have to understand those people are working against our national interests because our economy simply needs immigration to continue to grow and create jobs for all of us and to create prosperity for our communities.”