Rebutting the Fraser Institute’s Report on Immigration

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(This was a letter of the editor I sent to my local newspaper titled: Re: Immigration selection should be based on businesses’ needs: Report.)

QMI Agency reported on a Fraser Institute report claiming that immigration is a drain on Canadian taxpayers because the average immigrant pays less in taxes than the average non-immigrant and receives the same benefits. The Fraser Institute argues that the immigration policy needs to be revamped so that only people with a pre-arranged contract  that meets the average salary for the region in which the work would be done would be allowed to immigrate. Presumably jobs that pay under that amount would be filled by temporary foreign workers who can be deported rather than integrated into Canadian society. We would take advantage of people’s labour but send them packing.

Patti Tamara Lenard, Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, takes some of the Fraser Institute’s numbers to task in a post on the Broadbent Institute blog. She points out that the Fraser Institute is comparing younger workers (as most of the relevant immigrants are) with older Canadian workers. We  wouldn’t expect someone in their twenties to earn the same as someone in their fifties, would we? She also points out that immigrants are less likely than non-immigrants to use employment insurance, subsidized housing, social assistance than non-immigrants, and that the costs of parents and grandparents brought in the through the program are borne by the sponsors  for the first ten years.

Looking beyond the strong possibility that the Fraser Institute is comparing the wrong numbers, what concerns me is the underlying assumption that anyone not paying a specific amount in taxes is a drain on society. That ignores the unpaid contributions people make through volunteer work and child raising. It reduces the measure of people to their income. It engages in poor-bashing, blaming everyone earning less than average wages as being a drain. People earning minimum wage can be seen as a drain on other taxpayers, but it is the businesses we are subsidizing, and not the individuals. We subsidize businesses by allowing them to pay less than living wages to their workers, and then we blame the workers.

The Fraser Institute report just an accountant’s way of trying to justify poor-bashing, racism and xenophobia. I hope Canadians can see through their efforts to pit one group against another and instead join together working for a more just, loving society.

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