Skilled immigrants are needed to increase Canada’s home supply as a wave of retirements closes in on the nation’s construction industry, the federal housing minister says.
Speaking with Global News in a year-end interview, Ahmed Hussen provided yet another reason why Ottawa decided to boost its immigration targets earlier this year.
“We know there is over a million jobs in Canada that remain unfilled, so we need immigrants, skilled immigrants, to come in and help us fill those unfilled jobs and help us grow our economy,” he said. “In addition to that, the irony is we actually need more people, skilled immigrants, to also help us in the building trades and the construction sector of our economy.”
“We need those workers to actually come in and help us build the housing that Canadians need.”
By 2025, the federal government wants to see 500,000 people arrive in Canada per year, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser revealed on Nov. 1. Ottawa’s new plan envisions a flood of immigrants that will see 465,000 people arrive in 2023, rising to 500,000 in 2025, with a heavy emphasis on admitting people based on work skills or experience.
A poll conducted shortly afterwards suggested the vast majority of Canadians were worried about how the Liberal government’s plan to increase immigration levels will affect housing and government services. Seventy-five per cent of respondents agreed they were very or somewhat concerned the plan would result in excessive demand for housing, as well as health and social services.
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At the time of the announcement, Fraser said the move was necessary to ensure Canada’s economic prosperity, as the country struggles with a labour shortage resulting in one million job vacancies.
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Job vacancies are expected to plague the construction industry in the coming years due to a wave of expected retirements, industry experts have previously told Global News.
Canada has been plagued by a housing shortage for years, and demand for homes has soared, resulting in escalating real estate prices. The hot housing market started to cool in 2022 as the Bank of Canada raised its prime lending rate to dampen high inflation.
Construction workers have been racing to build as many homes as they can to meet demand; Prime Minister Justin Trudeau even pledged in the summer to spend $2 billion to create more affordable housing across Canada. The Liberals’ federal budget set aside $10.1 billion in spending over five years aimed at housing.
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But as the housing supply issue shows no sign of easing, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said in June that an “all hands on deck” approach was needed to find a solution.
And with more than a fifth of Canada’s construction workers set to retire in the next decade, according to Canadian Home Builders’ Association President Kevin Lee, integrating skilled immigrants into the labour market will be essential over the coming years, Hussen said.
“We need more immigration to help us build more housing for Canadians, and our government is focused on that,” he said.
“We’re prioritizing those particular skills that are needed right now in our labour market.”
— with files from Global News’ Anne Gaviola and Craig Lord
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