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Licking The Immigration Numbers GameLicking The Immigration Numbers Game

Licking The Immigration Numbers Game

Matthew Lau argues setting the ideal annual number of newcomers to Canada makes as much sense as predicting the number of ice cream cones Torontonians will eat on the weekend.

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Topics: Culture, Policy, Government, Faith
Licking The Immigration Numbers Game September 12, 2019  |  By Matthew Lau
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“What is the ideal target of those who support mass immigration?” asked Maxime Bernier, Quebec MP and People’s Party of Canada leader, recently on Twitter

Half a million immigrants per year? A million? Bernier, whose central campaign promise is a sharp reduction in immigration, feels he knows the appropriate amount: 100,000 to 150,000 immigrants annually, a reduction of about two-thirds from what the federal government plans to implement.

Curiously, Bernier’s platform stated as recently as this past spring that the appropriate amount of immigration is 250,000 annually. Then in July, he announced that it should only be about half that amount – which raises questions as to what new facts or evidence had emerged in the intervening months that justify such a substantial policy revision. The apparent answer is there has been none.

This helpfully illustrates why the answer to Bernier’s question as to the federal government’s “ideal target” for immigration levels is that no such target should exist. The reason, quite simply, is that the federal government, including one led by Bernier, would not know – nor can anybody know – what the optimal quantity of immigration is.

I wonder if Bernier – or any other politician for that matter – could presume to know the ideal target of ice cream cones that should be sold in Toronto next weekend and, being confident that his or her judgment is the correct one, would propose a law saying the quantity of ice cream cones sold must not exceed or come short of that amount.

Such a question seems absurd. Determining the appropriate number of ice cream cones would require reading people’s minds, precisely forecasting the outside temperature, perfectly predicting the amount of McDonald’s ice cream machines that will be in working order (they’re always breaking down), and to be in possession of innumerable relevant facts that influence people’s decisions to buy or sell ice cream.

Setting, by law, the ideal number of ice cream cones to be sold in Toronto next weekend, is clearly a task that could be trusted to no one person or any committee of people, no matter how smart they are and no matter how much study they give the matter. The individual decisions of buyers and sellers of ice cream, not the government, should determine the quantity of ice cream sold, all reasonable people would agree.

Why then, when it comes to a much more important and complex question than ice cream cones – namely, the number of people who should be allowed to immigrate to Canada annually – should anybody have any faith in the federal government to correctly set the quantity? The answer is that they shouldn’t – whether the federal government is run by Justin Trudeau, Andrew Scheer, Maxime Bernier or anybody else.

Instead of immigration levels prescribed by politicians who have no clue what the appropriate quantity is, the guiding policy principle for immigration in Canada, Terence Corcoran wrote in a 2015 column in the National Post, should say, “Canada is a free country open to all who are willing to abide by its laws, regardless of race, creed, wealth, income, nationality, status or shoe size.”

Corcoran continued:

Do not send me your whining and angry letters to the editor and tweets about how such a principle would open Canada’s doors to terrorists, criminals, freeloaders, welfare bums, health-care cheats, anti-Western religious and ethnic groups, low-lifes, genetically inferior races, job-destroyers, communists, fascists and bearers of strange cultural habits and beliefs that will destroy Canada as we know it, bringing more pollution, urban congestion, resource depletion, welfare loads.

Stop. Don’t. It has all been said and alleged before, over and over again, all through Canada’s sometimes impressive but rarely magnificent immigration history.

Indeed, the effect of immigration in Canada’s history has been profoundly positive. The economy is freer and stronger because of it and there has been no serious case made that allowing more immigration would now have the opposite effect.

More fundamentally, just as people should be free to buy or sell as many ice cream cones as they like, so too should people be free to choose where to live.

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