Friday, July 07, 2006

Liberals And Immigration

There has always been a co-relation between where a party sits on the political spectrum and its attitude towards immigration. It tends to be the Liberals and NDP that champion robust immigration, as an extension of their inclusive philosophy. Conservatives, on the other hand tend to be far more cautious on immigration, partially as a consequence of their somewhat racist right flank. A close look at the various caucuses tells a striking story, as do the ridings they represent.

I wonder if the time has come for a re-think on immigration from those of us on the center, center-left. I read an interesting piece today that makes some strong points:
Canada's livable cities are an unsung national asset. One of the things that makes them special is the presence of immigrants from all over the world who have contributed new energy and cultural diversity. But, in immigration as in everything else, too much of a good thing isn't better. Ottawa's policy of mass immigration, for which no reasonable explanation has ever been offered, risks doing irreparable damage to our cities...

There is no reason why Canada should have far more immigration than any other country. Canada's existing population is younger than those of most other developed countries and its ratio of working age people to retired ones is higher. If Canada reverted to its traditional, more moderate, immigration program, it could continue to enjoy the benefits of immigration while sparing its cities the problems of unmanageable growth. Immigrants would benefit too. Their economic performance has been in free fall over the past 15 years...

Ontario's environment commissioner, Gord Miller, issued a warning last year about what the future holds for Toronto given current trends:

"The environmental impacts of this magnitude of growth ... will compromise the quality of our lifestyle to a stage where it will be unrecognizable," he said. "We already have trouble dealing with our waste right now ... What about another 4 million tonnes a year? What about another 4 million cars?"

There is an inherent contradiction in the NDP's excellent environmental package and its attitude towards immigration. It is simply counter-intuitive to think we can reduce emissions, while our population explodes. Many municipalities already have massive problems as it relates to water availability, garbage and affordable housing. Constant debates over new sources of electrical power to feed the growing demand. Insane gridlock on infastructures that can't accommodate increased volumes. Health care systems pushed to the max, with no relief in site. Pristine areas bulldozed to accommodate urban sprawl.

If quality of life is the central theme, as it should be, this formula demands a responsible immigration policy. Immigration must be tied to practicality, not some ideal notion of how we view our society. I don't think there is any question that we have now reached a stage where an inverse relationship exists between environmental health and immigration levels. With this reality in mind, liberals need to re-think our kneejerk stances on immigration, because the present policies have failed. There is a certain amount of political bravery needed to change course, as pandering is clearly part of the problem. However, I see it as a moral imperative to adopt the slowdown philosophy, while we catch our breath and quit exasperating the obvious environmental costs.


Mark Dowling said...

excellent post. If the population of the GTA increases by 100k p.a. (its share of the annual 250k+ immigration inflow) then that is 100k more people that the hydro/water/waste/road/transit infrastructure must cope with - this when with the existing infrastructure cities like Toronto are already way in the hole due to aging pipes and so on.

The arguments of hardcore environmentalists with respect to hydro in particular seem to assume that you can conserve your way out of any situation but this is in the face of a population in possession of ever more DVD players, mobile phone chargers, computers etc. which draw power even when "off".

So not only are you looking to conserve your way out of nuclear and coal (57.5pc of total generation - IESO), you're conserving your way out of 100,000 new consumers p.a. in the GTA alone and you're conserving your way out of the massive fiscal drain on the province that is our importation of power from the US and Quebec, something which will only increase with the improvements to the QC interconnector. I would love to meet Dippers like Gord Perks if only to say "are you out of your goddamned mind??"

I actually respect the fact that at least the provincial Liberals did accept how deeply in doodoo Ontario is and bit the bullet on extending coal and renewing nuclear - there might be better options out there but hell I'm happy they are just taking any at all. The federal Liberals must do their part by finding a way to encourage (not enforce - Charter won't allow it) migration to areas with infrastructure surpluses in a way that can work and be legally and fiscally sound.

Steve V said...


That is why I find it staggering that people like Liberal candidate Maurizio Bevilacqua are advocating we double the number of immigrants-that is reckless. The article puts the breakdown as such:

"Ottawa knows Toronto gets almost half of all immigrants while Vancouver gets 18 per cent and Montreal 12 per cent. Many of those who settle elsewhere at first also eventually wind up in one of the three biggest cities."

This translates into 2% growth per year for Toronto, and partially explains McGuinty's energy approach. Conservation alone can't offset the growth, the two work against each other.

The only political solution might be for an all party directive, negating any potential voter pitfall.

Werner Patels said...

Excellent post. There is no reason why immigration should not be approached with a good dose of common sense.

Too much of anything is bad, and the same is true of immigration. Our cities simply cannot absorb the number of people who keep coming to this country. And it's not just the numbers, but also the added problem of most of the newcomers' inability to speak English and thus become productive and functional members of society. What are we supposed to do? Wave a magic wand?

Everything within reason and in moderation, that's what I say.

Robert McClelland said...

I wouldn't give much credence to Daniel Stoffman's anti-immigration, anti-multicultural claptrap. His latest crackpot theory of blaming immigrants for the deterioration of our city's infrastructure is just a way of deflecting attention from the real culprit; inadequate funding. Immigrants have always had a net positive financial effect on our economy and Stoffman's theories simply deny that reality.

As for the new environmental angle, that's SOP from the halfwit right who look for any reason to sell their crackpot theories. They try to mash their issue with one you care about in order to make it more palatable. The simple undeniable fact is that Canada's population, even at current immigration levels, doesn't grow fast enough to have any meaningful impact on environmental issues like ghg emissions.

Frankly I'm surprised the Star would publish his rubbish. Stoffman isn't even widely accepted as credible amongst conservatives. About the only people who take him seriously are people like Michelle Malkin.

Steve V said...

"The simple undeniable fact is that Canada's population, even at current immigration levels, doesn't grow fast enough to have any meaningful impact on environmental issues like ghg emissions."

Robert, with all due respect it just seems like simple math, more people, more emissions- especially given the fact that the growth is primarily in the urban centers. To say there is no environmental cost associated with rising population is counter-intuitive- as any new subdivision or pipeline to the great lakes will attest. I'm not proposing we eliminate immigration, but it must be tied with infastructure abilities and environmental impact.

Robert McClelland said...

Robert, with all due respect it just seems like simple math, more people, more emissions- especially given the fact that the growth is primarily in the urban centers.

Canada takes in roughly 250,000 immigrants each year. That's a mere .75% of Canada's population. That is an insignificant amount of growth; especially when you consider Canada's overall population growth rate is only 1% a year. The extra amount of ghg emissions caused by that puny amount of population growth is dwarfed by the ghg emissions growth rate caused by expansion of the Alberta oil sands alone.

So our immigration level is simply not a meaningful factor in the ghg emissions equation.

Now do you see how absurd Stoffman's claims are? If you examine all his theories by looking at the facts instead of just taking his claims at face value you'll see he's nothing more than a rightwing fraud who peddles crackpot theories based on specious reasoning, logical fallacies and bald faced lies.

Steve V said...

Robert, you make a valid point about the tar sands. However, when you look at how immigration is concentrated in a few urban centers, coupled with the other environmental impacts I have cited, to say the cost is meaningless is wrong. The simple fact remains that our infastructure is unable to accomodate more growth, let alone deal with what we already have. We desperately need a breather, urban sprawl benefits no one, least of all the environment.