As all the federal party leaders gather tonight for the first time at a debate in this forty-third election campaign, one wishes to slash the number of refugees Canada accepts in half, one wants to continue a plan to increase them, while another wants to significantly boost the number of refugees who settle in this country.
But where do Canadians stand?
The latest public opinion poll from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute indicates just over half (52%) of Canadians are on side with the immigration targets set out by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Four-in-ten (39%) say that the current level of 331,000 immigrants for 2019 is about right, while another 13 per cent would actually increase the total, as the Liberals plan to do over the coming years if re-elected.
The rest say either these targets are too high (40%) or aren’t sure (8%).
This comprehensive survey on immigration policy also finds confusion and significant misperceptions among people in Canada about how many immigrants actually settle in this country year over year, and where in the world they come from. Canadians also overestimate the number who come as refugees and underestimate the number who arrive as of economic class immigrants.
For example, two-thirds of Canadians (64%) say that Canada accepts most of its immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa. This region actually represents about 12 per cent of immigration. Canadians also overestimate the percentage of refugees the country accepts by double, while underestimating the number of economic class immigrants significantly.
Against the backdrop of a looming vote, the top three leaders as best to handle the immigration file are Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer (28%) followed by Liberal leader Trudeau (22%) and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh (18%).
More than half of Canadians (56%) say the Liberal government’s handling of border issues, particularly asylum seekers, has been too soft, more than twice the number who say they have handled the issue well (26%).
A majority (62%) say immigrants should have to be able to speak one of Canada’s official languages when coming to the country, while 38 per cent say it is acceptable for them to learn while they settle.
Conservative voters are much more critical of the impact immigrants have on Canadian jobs than those who support the other major federal parties. Four-in-ten (41%) of those who plan to back the CPC in the election say too many Canadian jobs are being lost to newcomers, while fewer than one-in-five Liberal, Green and NDP supporters say the same, respectively