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Douglas Todd: Toronto and Vancouver breaking North American records for immigration growth

Greater Toronto and Metro Vancouver are growing far faster through immigration than any other North American city.

The two Canadian metropolises are absorbing many more immigrants per capita than the United States’ top immigrant-receiving cities, such as New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

The rapid growth of Toronto and Vancouver through immigration comes as the federal Liberals in 2019 welcomed the largest number of new immigrants to the country in more than a century at 341,000.

The concentrated flow into Toronto and Vancouver is occurring as the province of Quebec has reduced its immigration levels by 20 per cent, leading to fewer moving last year to Montreal (34,620). The two Canadian cities’ immigration numbers also coincide with tightening border rules in the U.S., which has long allowed in three times fewer immigrants per capita than Canada.

Greater Toronto and Metro Vancouver, the latter of which experienced a record 13-per-cent rise in new immigrants in 2019, are proving to be distinctly powerful magnets for foreign-born newcomers, even within their own provinces.

Although it’s often said Canada is a “big country,” most immigrants focus on heading to the country’s biggest cities. Sixteen of 20 newcomers to British Columbia in 2019 headed directly for Metro Vancouver, while one of 20 set up home in the Greater Victoria region.

Vancouver real-estate marketer Bob Rennie and associate Andrew Ramlo told the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association last week that a projected “demographic crunch” involving immigrants will bring one million more people into Metro Vancouver in the next 20 years.

That will require building 450,000 new homes — the equivalent of “another Vancouver, Burnaby, New West and Coquitlam,” said the real-estate marketers. Other analysts say it’s worth monitoring the impact of such high in-migration on not only local housing, but on transit and the labour market.

The Vancouver skyline. The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association was told last week that a projected ‘demographic crunch’ involving immigrants will bring one million more people into Metro Vancouver in the next 20 years. FRANCIS GEORGIAN / PNG FILES

Jack Jedwab, president of Metropolis Canada, says Metro Vancouver, despite its relatively small size of 2.6 million, is projected to be the fifth highest immigrant-receiving city in North America in total numbers after only New York, Toronto, Miami and Los Angeles.

A Postmedia analysis of Jedwab’s data on North American cities revealed that Metro Vancouver and Greater Toronto take in a much higher per capita proportion of immigrants each year than any major U.S. city.

The record number of new immigrants to Greater Toronto in 2019 (117,000) boosted the city’s population by 1.9 per cent.

The rising immigrant population of Metro Vancouver (40,020) hiked the West Coast metropolis’s population by 1.6 per cent.

The recent arrival of 168,000 immigrants to New York City in one year makes the Big Apple the top immigrant-receiving city in North America in gross numbers. But the population of the New York census region of 20 million grew through immigration by only a small margin compared to Vancouver and Toronto: 0.8 per cent.

The second-largest immigrant-receiving metropolis in the U.S., the Miami region of 6.2 million, grew by just 1.2 per cent in a year via 80,000 new immigrants. Los Angeles, with more than 12 million people, grew by a tiny 0.6 per cent through the arrival of 70,032 new immigrants.

The U.S.’s other top immigrant-receiving metropolises — Washington, D.C., Chicago, Houston, the San Francisco area and Dallas/Fort Worth — all also expanded by less than 0.6 per cent annually as a result of immigrants.

The speedier rates of immigration growth for Toronto and Vancouver were achieved without taking into account the arrival of temporary foreign-born newcomers to each city, particularly international students, whose overall numbers in 2019 (642,000) have doubled since 2015.

The Toronto downtown skyline. The record number of new immigrants to Greater Toronto in 2019 (117,000) boosted the city’s population by 1.9 per cent. ERNEST DOROSZUK / POSTMEDIA NEWS FILES

Greater Toronto and Metro Vancouver took in far more new international students and foreign guest workers in 2019 than they did immigrants.

In Metro Vancouver, the volume of non-permanent foreign-born residents who moved in (101,000) was more than double the number of immigrants. Yet analysts point out both permanent and non-permanent newcomers have an impact on housing, transit, wages and rental accommodation.

Another geographical imbalance in immigration patterns reveals itself when figures are broken down by territory and province.

B.C (mostly Metro Vancouver) took in as many immigrants last year as all of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Yukon, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and New Brunswick combined.

New Brunswick officials are lamenting they cannot hold onto the meagre 5,000 to 6,000 or so a year who initially move to their Maritime province. A team of researchers this month found 50 per cent of immigrants leave New Brunswick after five years.

Data on 2019 immigration levels also reveals striking changes in the origins of the 341,000 immigrants who arrived in Canada this year, compared to the 271,000 who came in 2015, the first year of Justin Trudeau’s government.

Jedwab’s data shows the proportion of immigrants coming to Canada from India has doubled since 2016, to the point that that giant South Asian country’s citizens now account for one in four of all new immigrants.

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