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Blocking non-permanent resident admissions could worsen recession in 2024: Desjardins report

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Canada's population has surged over the last year, with growth driven in large part by foreign workers and international students. But as the federal government weighs limiting non-permanent residents (NPR), a new report from Desjardins says such a move would "deepen the recession expected in 2024."

The report, released Wednesday and written by Desjardins' senior director of Canadian economics Randall Bartlett, says the number of NPRs is expected to fall naturally as the economy slows. Under the current baseline projections, Bartlett expects real GDP growth to fall to 0.1 per cent in 2024, down from 1.1 per cent in the previous year.

However, if the federal government introduces new policies designed to make NPR admissions fall to zero, the report says Canada's real GDP could shrink by 0.7 per cent in 2024. On top of that, such a move could "blunt the subsequent recovery" after the recession and lead to a lower potential GDP.

"As such, caution is warranted on the part of policymakers to minimize the economic downside of slowing newcomer arrivals too quickly," Bartlett wrote.

Canada's population increased to 40.5 million last fall, making it among the world's fastest growing countries. In the third quarter of 2023 alone, the country's population grew by more than 430,000.

Much of this growth was driven by temporary residents. Statistics Canada says there were more than 2.5 million NPRs in Canada in October 2023, up from 1.7 million at the same point in the previous year. This marks a record high rate of growth of NPRs in the last 50 years since data became available.

If Canada were to double NRP admissions from its current pace, Bartlett says the economy could grow by one per cent this year and have much stronger growth in the years to come.

However, the report says “sustained high levels of NPR admissions” could strain housing affordability and worsen inflation, which could also force the Bank of Canada to keep interest rates higher for longer.

Given these concerns, the federal government has signalled possible reductions to temporary resident admissions.

Back in October, Immigration Minister Marc Miller said he was looking into ways to make Canada's immigration system better "aligned" with the country's labour needs. Last month, Miller also announced his government would increase the cost-of-living financial requirement for international students from $10,000 to $20,635. The minister also threatened to impose a cap on the number of international student visas if provinces don't do enough to curb diploma mills.

"Ahead of September 2024, we are prepared to take necessary measures including significantly limiting visas to ensure that designated learning institutions provide adequate and sufficient student supports as part of the academic experience," he told reporters at a Dec. 7 press conference.

With files from The Canadian Press and CTVNews.ca's Charlie Buckley

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