Since September, polls from Nanos, the Environics Institute and now Leger, a Canadian market research company, have all found that support for high levels of immigration to Canada has declined sharply in recent months.
Immigration is the largest contributing factor to the country’s growing population. Canada’s population hit a milestone of over 40,000,000 people in 2023. Canada expects to admit 485,000 new permanent residents in 2024 and 500,000 in both 2025 and 2026.
This rapid population growth has caused some Canadians to be concerned that the increasing level of immigration is contributing to a higher cost of living in Canada, especially for housing.
Still, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) 2022 Report on Immigration to Parliament showed that immigration is responsible for 90% of Canada’s labour force growth. Without a high number of immigrants, it could be difficult to fill the vacancies left by the nine million Canadians expected to retire by 2030.
IRCC says that the most recent Immigration Levels Plan is sustainable, supports the economy and will relieve pressure felt in the healthcare system as well as in housing.
Despite the need for newcomers to keep Canada’s economy strong, Leger, Environics and Nanos have all found that there is growing concern about immigration among Canadians who are dealing with a high cost of living, elevated inflation and difficulty finding an affordable place to live
The polls did not ask all the same questions, but they did all ask how Canadians feel about the future of immigration in Canada.
On November 29, Ledger released a survey reporting on Canadian opinions regarding immigration. It found that only 9% of Canadians would like to welcome a higher number of newcomers, 43% are fine with the same amount as planned and 39% would like to see fewer immigrants in Canada.
The same poll showed that 72% of Canadians believe immigrants play a key role in growing Canada’s population. However, nearly the same number feel immigrants are contributing to the housing crisis (75%) and putting pressure on the health care system (73%) and the school system (63%).
According to a poll released by the Environics Institute in October, support for immigration dropped from an all-time high in 2022 to an all-time low in just a year.
It found that Canadians are much more likely to say that there is too much immigration. This was a dramatic reversal from a trend of growing support over decades. It was also the first time Canadians have been found to question the number of immigrants who are arriving in Canada instead of where they come from.
Despite concern over rising levels of immigration, Environics found that most Canadians still believe that immigration is good for the economy, but the lead is not as strong as it has been in the past.
Nanos Research also conducted a poll that found 53 per cent of Canadians say they want fewer immigrants in 2023 than what is projected in the Immigration Levels Plan. This is a nearly 20-point increase since similar data was collected in March 2023, rising from 34 %.
The poll also noted that 55% of Canadians believe there are too many international students. Immigration Minister Marc Miller estimated that there would be 900,000 international students in Canada by the end of 2023.
All three polls cited Canadian’s growing concerns about the impact of immigration on affordability, particularly considering the current lack of affordable housing.
The most recent data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation shows that Canada must build over three million new houses to restore affordability by 2030.
Still, the same report notes that despite higher than forecasted levels of immigration, it is not projected that the number of households in Canada will be significantly higher than it was in 2022.
The Environics poll further noted that the concern about immigration’s effect on housing is a narrative driven more by the media than Canadian’s direct experience or locally based developments.
The lack of support for immigration can also be evaluated according to Canadian’s political leanings. The Leger and Environics surveys found less support overall across all supporters of all political parties. However, the most dramatic decrease in support for high levels of immigration was found, in both instances, to be among those who vote for Canada’s conservative party.
Both the Leger report and the Environics report show that 64% of conservative supporters are in favour of less immigration. The same is true among 29% of Liberal party supporters. The results for NDP supporters showed a difference with Ledger saying 37% of NDP supporters felt the same and Environics showing 21% of NDP supporters wanted less immigration.
Nanos did not ask respondents about their political affiliation.
There is also less support for immigration from Canadians over the age of 55. Nanos found that 50% of surveyed Canadians over 55 wanted Canada to accept fewer immigrants. Leger showed 54% for the same question of the same demographic.