B.C. government blames federal policy roller coaster for immigration plunge

November 16, 2015

By Jen St. Denis, Business in Vancouver |

B.C.’s Jobs Ministry is blaming the federal government for a 55% drop in immigration numbers in the first half of 2015 – a decline that could affect the province’s real estate and labour markets.

In 2015’s first six months, B.C. immigration numbers fell to their lowest level in 15 years.

“We had expected it to be stronger, and it has caused us to re-evaluate some of our forecasts going forward,” said Bryan Yu, senior economist with Central 1 Credit Union.

Analysts had expected a reduction in non-permanent immigration because of the sudden restrictions imposed on the temporary foreign worker (TFW) program in June 2014. More worrying, Yu said, was a 19% decline in the number of permanent residents in the same period.

B.C.’s Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training declined Business in Vancouver’s interview request. But in an email, ministry staff wrote that recent changes to several federal immigration programs are to blame for the falling numbers.

“The introduction of a federal Express Entry system, changes to the TFW program and the cancellation of the immigrant investor program have meant slower processing times and fewer people being admitted to the country,” staff wrote.

The federal Citizenship and Immigration Canada ministry processes 80% of immigrants to B.C., while the province handles 20% of immigrants through its provincial nominee program (PNP). That program allows provinces to set targets and shape their own applicant requirements to respond to labour needs. B.C. will fill 100% of its PNP allocation this year.

After years of loosening the rules by which Canadian employers could hire temporary foreign workers for both skilled and unskilled jobs, the federal government heavily restricted the program in June 2014 after serious abuses of the program came to light. The program was criticized for creating a situation where low-skilled workers, who were not eligible for citizenship, could be exploited by their employers.

The federal immigrant investor program was scrapped in January 2014 and reintroduced in January 2015. The new program allows only 50 applicants per year, who must have a net worth of $10 million. The program had attracted 36,973 wealthy people to British Columbia between 2005 and 2012.

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