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Canada’s immigration backlash is far from populist Unlike in Texas, a polite revolution is taking shape

Protestors on the Ontario border (Geoff Robins / AFP)

Protestors on the Ontario border (Geoff Robins / AFP)


February 1, 2024   6 mins

As the United States and Texas state governments clash over the Mexican border, a very different kind of immigration crisis is taking place elsewhere in North America. Unlike in the divided US, Canada is supposed to be one of the world’s most solidly pro-immigration societies. More than just another self-satisfied Justin Trudeau facade, this attitude has been attested to by historically high levels of public support.

However, an unfolding shift in public sentiment may now change that. Amid a housing crunch and soaring costs of living, Canadians are turning against the prospect of welcoming more immigrants. And the Trudeau government has slowly started to bend under this pressure.

But unlike the rest of the West, Canadians are not advancing this argument via populist rabblerousers or angry mass protests. Instead, Canada’s turnaround is being led by cadres of respectable, credentialed and, for the most part, small-l liberal experts and commentators, who are making the case for immigration reduction in terms that are academic and utilitarian, rather than emotive and atavistic. And, while there has been a rise in populism in recent years, within the Conservative Party and elsewhere, these forces have been unable or unwilling to capitalise on anti-immigration sentiment.

This unique set of circumstances has led to a distinct form of restrictionism, a “polite backlash”, with stereotypically Canadian characteristics. Being driven by educated elites, it plays out in the rarefied spaces of establishment opinion, where opposition to Ottawa’s temporary migrant policies (which has seen more explosive growth than the permanent stream) has materialised.

For instance, the editorial pages of the newspaper of record, The Globe and Mail, have recently featured pleas for “aggressive action to reduce the number of temporary migrants”, along with warnings that businesses “should not be subsidised through the import of cheap labour”. Similar sentiments were heard in the CBC’s nightly news program, which hosted a debate on the question: “Housing crisis vs. immigration: Is it time to slow things down?” Twitter, meanwhile, abounds with commentary by housing experts calling for Ottawa to “substantially reduce the number of visas for both international students and [foreign workers]”. A respected former Bank of Canada governor likewise criticised the fixation on juicing up growth through immigration, which retarded productivity: “On a per-person basis, the economy has been shrinking.”

These objections to the status quo amount to what the Globe describes as “practical concerns about the current pace of immigration, not ideological opposition” to immigration itself, which most (if not all) of these thought leaders continue to support in principle. We are seeing that rare thing: a pragmatic, context-driven response among segments of Canada’s expert class that also matches recent shifts in public opinion.

Because data from the country’s major polling firms, collected over the last few months, all show overwhelming support for cutting immigration numbers as a response to cost-of-living challenges: “68% agree — Canada should put a cap on international students until the demand for affordable housing eases” (Ipsos); “An increasing proportion of Canadians [61%] want Canada to accept fewer immigrants in 2024” (Nanos Research); “Canadians
 believe that immigrants are contributing to the housing crisis (75%) and putting pressure on the health care system (73%)” (Leger). This convergence of views across large swathes of Canadian society has proved unignorable.

Last week, Trudeau’s minister for immigration, Marc Miller, announced cuts to the country’s intake of international students, which has seen exorbitant growth in the last year, and now accounts for a staggering 1 million people, or 2.5% of Canada’s population. (To put the figure in perspective: this means that Canada is hosting almost as many international students as US institution, despite the US population being roughly nine times bigger.) This comes after Statistics Canada figures revealed that “as many as 1 in 5 study permit holders in Canada are not actually studying at the institutions to which they have been accepted”, demonstrating how education has become a back door to the job market.

The new policy will see international undergraduate visas capped at 360,000 in 2024, a one-third reduction from last year, and a rationing of these visas among the provinces, along with changes to the “Post-Graduate Work Program”, widely regarded as a pathway to permanent residency for students. Beyond policy details, this volte-face amounts to an admission of a longstanding truth: the existing system has served as a cash cow for tuition-hungry schools and rent-hungry landlords, as well as a source of cheap labour for employers. The new changes are expected to offer some temporary relief to runaway rents prices (though economists disagree by how much).

Though these changes don’t go far enough for some (including this author), at the very least, it is a signal that Trudeau’s Liberals are willing to act on a problem they ignored for so long: it represents a meaningful, if modest, policy victory for the polite backlash and its arguments for numbers reduction.

Conversations among thought leaders, however, have so far been largely limited to the temporary resident stream. It will be a measure of the experts’ and the government’s determination to correct course once they start considering cuts to the permanent resident stream, currently set at roughly 1.5 million newcomers by 2026. This is one case where public opinion is ahead of them, since the polling data indicates that most Canadians also want these targets to be scaled back as well. In any event, it is important to understand the deeply entrenched nature of the status quo that prompted this polite backlash, for even Miller’s moderate reforms have invited a backlash of its own from the powerful interests whose income has been threatened by the announced cuts.

The outcry is loudest from higher-education institutions, especially in Ontario, the largest province and epicentre of the crisis. These institutions stand to lose the most as they have relied excessively on international tuitions to compensate for their chronically underfunded budgets. This in turn is the fault of the Tory provincial government of Doug Ford, which carried out the budget cuts and had been aware of this over-reliance on foreign students but nonetheless persisted in letting it fester. It also maintained a lax approach to the growth of dubious for-profit “strip mall colleges”, which attracted large shares of international students. Ford’s government, therefore, shares responsibility with Trudeau’s for the severity of the problem, with parties of the Right and the Left found equally complicit.

Meanwhile, the Century Initiative, an influential business-linked group that advocates for immigration maximalism, issued an anodyne statement on the cuts, appearing to assent to them but nonetheless arguing for the 1.5 million permanent resident targets to be retained — even though these are precisely the numbers that must be cut if Ottawa is serious about easing affordability. What is likely to follow is a protracted debate between two segments of expert opinion on the future of immigration, one that will largely take place within the bounds of elite discourse, confirming the closed nature of political decision-making in Canada. As John Ibbitson put it in his account of the country’s “Laurentian elite”: “On all of the great issues of the day, this Laurentian elite debated among themselves
 But much of the debate was held behind closed doors: in faculty clubs, the hallways of legislatures, in dining rooms in [tony neighbourhoods like] Toronto’s Annex, Ottawa’s Glebe, Montreal’s Outremont.”

But the progress of this debate still begs the question: what happened to Canada’s populists, who ought to be challenging the elite conversation from outside the system? For some reason, they have counted themselves out of the immigration issue. Federal Tory leader Pierre Poilievre is a case in point: widely described as populist in style and outlook, he is Trudeau’s arch-foe. But he has avoided criticising the government’s immigration targets in any substantive way (a few recent vague comments about matching immigration numbers to housing construction notwithstanding). Even more strangely, he has sought to gain favour with the international students, meeting with them and trying to turn them against Trudeau, claiming they’d get a better deal under him. This is an incredibly naĂŻve and dangerous proposition that will simply give the students false hope for a path to residency, when in fact such expectations should be lowered, not raised. This poor judgement on Poilievre’s part suggests he won’t be any more serious on immigration than Trudeau’s government.

Further to the Right, the People’s Party has, in the past, been incredibly vocal about the need to restrict immigration. But after failing to re-enter parliament multiple times, its leader Maxime Bernier has faded into obscurity. On the Left, the New Democratic Party, nominally the party of organised labour, has abdicated the issue as well, even though as recently as 2014 it led the charge to limit low-skill immigration in the name of defending working-class jobs and wages. Only in Quebec are restrictionist parties still prevalent, but this has more to do with its idiosyncratic language politics than with material economic factors.

A populist revolt over immigration is therefore unlikely in Canada. But the country might have won something better: the expert-driven push to control immigration, with its emphasis on policy over passion, may prove to be a more effective and rational approach to the challenge than the theatrical (but toothless) populisms of Trump, Farage, Le Pen, Wilders and the rest. Canadians should hope that it succeeds in restoring balance to the system eventually, because should the polite backlash fail to do the job, the next backlash will be anything but.


Michael Cuenco is a writer on policy and politics. He is Associate Editor at American Affairs.
1TrueCuencoism

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Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
5 months ago

Unlike in Texas, a polite revolution is taking shape
A revolution is not a dinner party.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
5 months ago

The liberals are wanging up immigration to try to get elected next term. That’s the extent of their long term plan. As to a ground swell, Tucker Carlson is currently doing talking tours in alberta trying to prime the pump. But realistically, the other woke issues tend to make immigration feel abit acceptable. Everyone who’s walked to work at -40 is a Canadian to a great degree.

J Bryant
J Bryant
5 months ago

One question this article doesn’t address is why the Canadian “elite” suddenly believe immigration should be limited? After all, being pro-immigration (and unrestricted immigration, at that) is very woke, and Canada has become an intensely woke country.
Is excess immigration finally impinging on the cossetted lives of the “elite”?

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
5 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I think a lot of the respectability was created when the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. noted that immigration was helping drive up housing costs and rental rates. This is a federal govt agency so it added the perception of respectability to the issue.

James Love
James Love
5 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

An election is coming and the liberal elites know this is a big issue impacting their chances of winning. Also they have become even richer by driving up housing prices. Now that the market has toppled out they can slowly sell and reap the riches off of younger Canadians and immigrants.

Fred D. Fulton
Fred D. Fulton
5 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

No, the elites don’t care about the immigration. They also don’t care about property taxes going up 18%. They can afford it, they can afford the inflation from the lockdowns, and they can afford their homes (they already owned them). What the elites care about, why the CBC is showing interest, is the strong possibility that their golden boy, the drama teacher and trying-to-be thespian, Justin Trudeau, may well lose the next election. As always, they give not a %$#& about the unwashed masses. They’re more interested in Ron Desantis’ fortunes, because it has an affect on their homes in Florida.

Linda M Brown
Linda M Brown
5 months ago
Reply to  Fred D. Fulton

You mean Justin -trust fund, blackface, groping, part-time (resigned under mysterious circumstances) drama teacher-Trudeau might not win? Torontonians will vote him back in; they’re like an abused spouse who believes their violent spouse when they claim they’ll never beat them again.

Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
5 months ago

As an American, all I care about is that new immigrants come here legally, do not over tax our welfare system and most of all assimilate at least to the point that they respect our basic laws and rights even if they don’t agree with them in how they conduct their own lives.

The last point is the most important (i.e. if you support terrorist groups or want to change our free speech laws or gender equality or rights of adults to choose who they are intimate with, stay the hell out)

Rosemary Throssell
Rosemary Throssell
5 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

What gender equality rights?

Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
5 months ago

I don’t know how about the 14th amendment (equal protection) or Title 9 more recently. I know the abortion issue is very serious and many women are alienated by the loss it as a universal right but we also have a legitimate female presidential candidate and more female college graduates than male. Beats what goes on in the Middle East and they can keep their misogyny to themselves


Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
5 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

Abortion laws have been rightly returned to the states. Women have not lost the right to kill their children in the womb.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
5 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

We have our own version of misogyny. It’s called the trans movement and this Orwellian push to call things what they are not: pregnant people, women with penises, chestfeeding, and the list goes on. Our version of misogyny may be less violent than that of the Middle East, but it’s not a point of pride.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
5 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

My immigrant husband and his family came to the US legally. They had to speak English, have sponsors, jobs, and good health before the green card was issued. They had to check in with local police every month to prove employment and clean record. They all became proud naturalized citizens. There was no welfare for them, nor would they have accepted it had there been.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
5 months ago

Pierre Poilievre is NOT a populist. I repeat. Pierre Poilievre is NOT a populist. He took a strong stand on the trucker protest – at the right time politically – and it created this populist persona.

C Yonge
C Yonge
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Is that bad or good? What is a populist and what is Pierre Poilievre if not a populist

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
5 months ago
Reply to  C Yonge

The new definition of populist is anyone who doesn’t go along with the official, pre-approved narrative of the self-proclaimed elite.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
5 months ago
Reply to  C Yonge

I don’t think it’s good or bad. It’s just a pernicious misconception. I would consider him a somewhat more traditional Conservative. He very much supports immigration, which I don’t have an issue with, as long as it is tempered with rational, objective limits that account for the costs associated with it. He seems genuinely opposed to carbon pricing, which I support of course, but I have no idea about his position on net zero itself. And I’m not convinced he will push back against DEI, ESG and other woke initiatives.

He will undoubtedly be better than Trudeau, but I’m not convinced he is the person people think he is. He’s never had a real job, moving into politics once he graduated. This is a red flag for me – not a game breaker but a red flag.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
5 months ago

I feel I should remind readers that Mike wrote this two years ago. Given recent events I would take his immigration stuff with a grain of salt.
https://dev.unherd.com/2022/12/biden-can-win-on-immigration/

Agnes Aurelius
Agnes Aurelius
5 months ago

What a naive and condescending puff piece! The so-called rabble rousers of the USA and the UK have to scream and shout and stamp their feet to be heard. As was already been pointed out in other comments, Trudeau has an election coming up so of course he is going to express certain concerns about immigration. So did Boris Johnson in the UK, and Rishie Sunak and we know where we are now in the UK. Absolutely nowhere with completely out of control and unsustainable immigration.

In many many areas of the UK such as Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester, Manchester and many boroughs in London the councils are predominantly run by Muslim men. Therefore they are in a position to take over the running of our schools our educational curriculum and eventually as parliamentary representatives. They don’t need to blow us up to dominate our Western democracies, they are quietly taking over the political and therefore most influential spheres in our country.

One good outcome of this awful prospect is that gender studies will be off the curriculum!

Katja Sipple
Katja Sipple
5 months ago
Reply to  Agnes Aurelius

“One good outcome of this awful prospect is that gender studies will be off the curriculum!”

However, that is the only good thing that will come of this demographic development. The situation is utterly abysmal, and the speed at which this takeover is happening is frightening. From a personal standpoint, I can no longer take pleasure in the knowledge that these idiotic leftists will be eaten by their own revolution, because the risk that my family and I will be swallowed up as well is too great.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
5 months ago
Reply to  Agnes Aurelius

According to this guy, it’s only legit if you’re “credentialed”.

Barbara Manson
Barbara Manson
5 months ago
Reply to  Agnes Aurelius

Where are immigrants into Canada coming from? The US? I don’t know the answers to these questions.
I am a US citizen born and raised in Texas. The issue there is that the current federal laws restrict immigration in reasonable ways. There is a legal way to seek asylum, though that definition has been stretched to the point where asylum adjudication cases are presently at a 7- year backlog, and the asylum claims can be awfully flimsy. Meanwhile during those 7 years the immigrants are free to be in the country. And that’s only the ones who attempt legal entry.
The statistics since the deployment of the Biden policy of unrestricted entry are pretty staggering. 1000 a day at the Texas border? Sorry I don’t have time to pull up links to the facts here.
Mainly I ask if the author of the article knows enough about the US immigration crisis (yes, I call it that) to speak of it in relation to the Canadian situation. And I think he presents an unfair characterisation of the populist-drama Texas government policy versus the educated-reasonable concern now coming out in Canada.

Fred D. Fulton
Fred D. Fulton
5 months ago
Reply to  Barbara Manson

Barbara, to answer your question, our immigrants come from most corners of the world, as they do in the US. Maybe more come from South Asia, and while in the US more come from the countries south of the US. (This is me just shooting from the hip; I didn’t look it up)
(My observational point is that I live directly across the street from a strip-mall foreign-students college (as referred to by another correspondent here) and on that basis, I believe that the dominant ethnicity is South-Asian)
It’s unfunny, but I think there is a clear consensus that ‘we’ dislike not so much the immigration itself, and not the new Canadians, but much moreso the line-jumpers. It offends our collective middle-class sense of fairness.
Beyond that, ‘we’ Canadians are newly up-in-arms, as our MSM has gotten behind the mathematics that having up to a million foreign students in Toronto is causing severe housing and social problems. Another issue: the refugees (line-jumpers?) are crowding out the citizens in the fight to receive temporary housing and social services. The hoi poloi here are finally pushing back against it. Said hoi poloi needed the CBC to explain it before they believed it. Also: the same middle-class Canadians are finally seeing it hit them in their wallets; ref unprecedented property tax hikes tied to the palaver. That will properly incentivize Canadians.
This fresh tumult is a welcome display of Canadians’ middle-class values, another word for populism, as another correspondent explained, and a description I agree with. (I could go on a 5-paragraph rant on this point, but I will spare you)
Pierre Poilievre is described as a populist, and in pursuit of developing rapport with middle-class Canadians. Some examples are: turning against the subsiding woke tide; the idea that you get what you pay for (i.e. public fiscal responsibility), and criticism of the lockdowns and suppression of free speech and free association that Trudeau applied vs the scamdemic.
That said, Poilievre is not a fool; like politicians of all stripes, he avoids the topics that have the potential to lose him the next election here in 18 months. I accept that. It reminds me of the old adage: if you speak the truth the whole day long, you’ll be dead or in jail by dinner time.

Pedro the Exile
Pedro the Exile
5 months ago
Reply to  Agnes Aurelius

and the Pride flag will be noticeable by its absence?Hamtramck,Michigan elected a Muslim dominated City Council and thats one of the first things they did-I guess Drag Queen story time for 5 year olds will also get binned?

Josie Bowen
Josie Bowen
5 months ago

Every cloud….

Walter Schwager
Walter Schwager
5 months ago
Reply to  Agnes Aurelius

Don’t forget, the UK is run by a Hindu PM!

Linda M Brown
Linda M Brown
5 months ago

He failed twice in the leadership race, and only won when he made a deal with Suella Braverman to sort out the illegal migrant problem and reduce legal immigration numbers. He lied to her. Her resignation letter after she was force out for comment on the two tier policing/justice system that is evident in the UK was epic. The conservatives under Sunak have purged every Brexiteer from the cabinet and replaced the with WEF and Europhile sycophants who seem to hate the indigenous(white) population.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
5 months ago

But the progress of this debate still begs the question: what happened to Canada’s populists, who ought to be challenging the elite conversation from outside the system? For some reason, they have counted themselves out of the immigration issue.”
The so-called populist movements only happened (or are only happening) because snooty liberal elites ignored problems for way too long, overlooking public sentiment on certain issues such an immigration and denigrating the people who dared to question it as dumb, racist, the great unwashed, etc. And then being surprised when that didn’t solve the relevant problem or serve as an effective electoral strategy.
Canada’s ruling class in this respect seem to be doing what they are supposed to do and what ruling classes across the rest of the West should have been doing all along: addressing legitimate public concerns and making policy to deal with them instead of ignoring and hectoring. It’s not rocket science to realise this.
There is not enough time in the day to appreciate the irony of “making politics in line with what the public wants” actually amounting to the “populism” that everyone gets so hysterical about. On the other hand, the “it’s OK if we do it, because we’re the grown ups in the room” attitude just fits right into the image of the snooty hypocritical liberal that I’ve grown to dislike so much in recent years.

Marcie Neville
Marcie Neville
5 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

The government is making a few concessions but have declared a two year cap. Guess what? In two years they hope to be re-elected and if they are we will be back to huge immigration. It keeps up GDP numbers but is fake because personal wealth goes down

James Love
James Love
5 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

There is a snowballs chance in hell that the Liberal government will win again. The polls look so bad, especially among young people that I doubt the Liberals will exist in a decade. Remember, they almost became the third party about 20 years ago. Canadians are angry … but they have longer memories than Americans.

Linda M Brown
Linda M Brown
5 months ago
Reply to  James Love

Don’t discount the stupidity of the Toronto voters to believe the Conservatives are the Boogeyman

William Cameron
William Cameron
5 months ago

Its an old truth-” you get what you measure”
We measure GDP so we get immigration.
If politicians were measured on GDP per capita only well paid high tax payers would be allowed in.

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
5 months ago

Sod the experts. Canada needs populists

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
5 months ago

Unlike in the divided US, Canada is supposed to be one of the world’s most solidly pro-immigration societies. When an article begins with something as factually false as this, how am I supposed to take it seriously? The US is not anti-immigration; the country has a long history of welcoming people from around the world. It does, however, have a problem will illegal immigration, which the author either knows and is lying about or doesn’t see an issue which is worse.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
5 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

I’m not quite sure why this measured article merits your dyspeptic response. The US is obviously more politically divided than Canada. And Canada is more pro immigration, even than the US. That’s perfectly reasonable, on both sides, given the very small Canadian population versus the American one.

I am not sure this distinction between legal and illegal immigration is particularly politically salient, although of course it is legally so. Legal immigration into the UK vastly outweighs that of illegal. The public are concerned about the overall numbers and rate of change, as well as the issue of cultural assimilation. However of course a complete failure to effectively police your borders is a huge additional problem in itself.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

I am not sure this distinction between legal and illegal immigration is particularly politically salient, — The distinction IS the point. It’s not just the 8 or so million who have entered during the Biden years. It’s also the 20+ million or more who were here illegally already.
There is a massive backlog of people trying to immigrate legally. While they wait for years for their cases to wind through the system – and without govt handouts in the interim – illegals waltz right in and society is uprooted to accommodate them.

Buena Vista
Buena Vista
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

I am not sure this distinction between legal and illegal immigration is particularly politically salient….
Are you dense?

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

I would not underestimate the importance of the distinction of legal and illegal immigration. A lot of Americans have a deep respect for the rule of law and the democratic process that is used to make such law. When they see a President choosing not to enforce existing immigration law, it looks a lot like one arm of the government trying to impose a policy that they have no prospect of getting through Congress, the branch of government charged with making law, including immigration policy. It looks like one arm of the government and one political party values their own ideology more than the law or the democratic process, and that’s not acceptable to many, including myself.

I myself would support vastly increased levels of legal immigration, so long as there was an orderly process to document everyone who enters in order to screen out known criminals, drug smugglers, human traffickers, terrorists, etc. and some consideration was given to favor the better educated and areas with labor shortages, such as healthcare. What I don’t want is a chaotic mess where we have no idea who is in the country or why and no attention is paid to the needs of the labor market and wage levels. It should be a sane, rational process based on the overall interests of the nation, not a de facto open borders policy based on sentiment and ideology.

The media though, including this author, paints the issue as a binary for/against, a classic false dichotomy fallacy. At least this author doesn’t play the racism card, but that’s commonly the follow up once the dichotomy is established. It’s deceptive and in the long run it just degrades the language. People won’t stop opposing illegal immigration because someone calls them racist, but they will eventually stop caring about accusations of racism in all contexts. These sorts of fallacies are so ubiquitous from the pro-immigration crowd that it degrades the quality of their argument and makes them look like irrational people making decisions based on sentiment rather than a reasonable assessment of the facts.

Paul T
Paul T
5 months ago

Here we have it; “it’s okay when we do it”. Puke.

Paul T
Paul T
5 months ago

“Thought leaders” a phrase straight out of 1984, communist China or the USSR.

Walter Lantz
Walter Lantz
5 months ago

Assuming the readership of Unherd is predominately from the UK it may be helpful to know about Canadian media sources quoted in articles like these. The Globe and Mail is usually centrist but can swing both ways. Toronto Star – think Guardian Left. CBC – BBC – same difference. The National Post is the center-Right outlet.
As far as the article goes the immigration backlash is just a natural reaction to a spendthrift Liberal government that has run out of money and whose popularity is sinking like a stone. The Poilievre Conservatives are early favourites for a majority government the next time around.
As in the UK there is a housing crisis, particularly in the GTA – that would be Toronto and environs – where refugee claimants and asylum seekers have been taking spaces in homeless shelters when they can and sleeping on the streets when they can’t. The ‘Left of Lenin” City of Toronto is over a billion short on their budget and about to raise taxes while begging the province of Ontario and the Feds for money. The immigration numbers are unsustainable but adult discussions are rare and risky because one slip of the tongue will get you labeled xenophobic or racist – especially if you’re a conservative.(Side note: you need 170 seats to win a federal majority – over 50 of them are in the ethnically diverse GTA). On the other hand, Poilievre (who is married to an immigrant) relates very well to legitimate applicants frustrated with Canada’s notoriously glacial processing system and the difficulty qualified professionals have getting work.
The Trudeau Liberals came as close as they dared to admitting there’s a problem by placing a cap on international students. Of course the schools are crying about losing their cash cow but their public image as expensive bloated bureaucracies and the current outbreak of institutional pro-Hamas anti-Semitism has left them over-drawn at the sympathy bank.
To make matters worse the Liberals announced yesterday that they’ve fired up the LaserJet and printed off $365M for refugee housing. The interesting and good news (unless you’re a Liberal) is that on-line comments in the rightie National Post and leftie Toronto Star are almost unanimously in agreement. Whiskey.Tango.Foxtrot.

Linda M Brown
Linda M Brown
5 months ago
Reply to  Walter Lantz

U of T has a $3.267 billion endowment
York University has a $632.7 million endowment
Ryerson/TM University has a $136.285 million endowment
None of them are hurting for cash

James Love
James Love
5 months ago

Populism is a euphemism for working class. Canada had a working class uprising called The truckers protest. This peaceful human rights protest was crushed through illegally invoking the Emergencies Act ie Marshal Law. It revealed how illiberal Canada’s Laurentian Elites are.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
5 months ago

The reason the Conservative Party of Canada has not pushed for immigration reduction is because the Liberals always and quite successfully brand them as racists. The Conservatives are way way ahead in the polls – in landslide territory – so they don’t need to wade into this issue. The author’s contention that we should rely on moderate thought leaders for solutions is risible – they have stood by mutely while all our institutions were taken over by activists.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

In the U.S., it was only a generation ago when Democrats were the ones who were tough on illegal immigration to protect union jobs. That has gone 180 degrees.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtxPWXIqC6U
And
https://www.bing.com/ck/a?!&&p=399425ad4ef1357fJmltdHM9MTcwNjc0NTYwMCZpZ3VpZD0wYjRmYzFmNC01NGZjLTZhZDQtMjYxNi1jZTFhNTU1NDZiMWUmaW5zaWQ9NTUyOQ&ptn=3&ver=2&hsh=3&fclid=0b4fc1f4-54fc-6ad4-2616-ce1a55546b1e&u=a1L3ZpZGVvcy9yaXZlcnZpZXcvcmVsYXRlZHZpZGVvP3E9Y2xpbnRvbit0b3VnaCtvbitpbW1pZ3JhdGlvbiZtaWQ9MjJBRUQ4RkIwRUQ2NkQ5NjM3ODUyMkFFRDhGQjBFRDY2RDk2Mzc4NSZGT1JNPVZJUkU&ntb=1

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
5 months ago

So we should think it more worthwhile now that the liberal elites and admin. state are coming around.

Steve Houseman
Steve Houseman
5 months ago

Pierre Poilievre = PP
My understanding is that following PP’s election as the leader of the Conservatives he was advised by the upper ups, Harper, Manning, Mulroney and the likes….to avoid the whole woke thing least he be gutted by all his opponents and the press and portrayed as a Manning like evangelical crusader from Alberta ready to skewer babies with a cross. Sticking to the economy/taxes/housing was the safe route.
PP has called woke stupid and has periodically strayed out of the comfort zone but by and large has avoided woke despite the overwhelming support amongst conservative delegates at their convention last year to stop woke.
I do pay my conservative dues and donate as well. I am holding on though because of the fat boy in TO, Tweddle Dumb, who’s a conservative pretender and needs to be gone.
I like PP and find him a great speaker with a firm grasp of the subject on hand although occasionally his brain get’s ahead of his mouth and causes him to stumble. Preston Manning is one of my hero’s. Harper is a straight shooter, a conservative and a family man.
I’d love to find out who within the Federal Government decided that MAID for the ‘mentally disabled/ill’ was righteous and worthy?
There’s an election coming and in my mind it can’t come soon enough. These issues like immigration won’t be negotiated by the ‘elite’ but will get decided at the ballet box. Canadians need to unherd and I believe they are and will.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
5 months ago

So a policy change driven by elites might be easier to accomplish than a policy change initiated by the people over elite objections? How shocking. Elites shouldn’t get to decide things for everybody, and until they themselves stop trying they run the risk of ending up losing a great deal more than their political power. Every violent revolution is preceded by a long period of kings and/or aristocrats ignoring the plights and opinions of the people.

Populism is hardly toothless, and hardly restricted to immigration. Immigration is simply one of a range of issues where populists challenge an entrenched establishment, and it is one of the easiest ways to tar and feather populists as ‘racists’. Taking a tough anti-China stance and ending unrestricted free trade are others, where the Biden administration has quietly continued Trump’s policies.

This author can rationalize however he wants to, but populism has moved the needle. Perhaps the Canadian elites are just not as stupid or stubborn as others and sensibly tempering their policies to match on the ground realities rather than blindly toeing an ideological line. Maybe they’re just embracing the need for change and adjusting to popular sentiment before it results in people like Trump, Le Pen, and Wilders instead of after or not at all.

Emre S
Emre S
5 months ago

When Trump won the first time, or Brexit referandum came in favour, this is the kind of adjustment I expected to see from the liberal elite in US and UK. What I saw instead however shocked me. It was as if the liberal leadership decided that the best response to a Trump win was to go visit asylums across the country, unlock all the mad people, give them the control, and support anything and everything they say and do afterwards.
At this point I had to reluctantly conclude, perhaps Trump supporters and Brexiters did have a point after all. Clearly the people who were supposed to be in charge and sane were unrecognisable, acting completely unhinged, and populists started increasingly to look like the sane part of the population.
Looking back I think part of this had to do with a broader rot in Western democracy where the liberal elite started to have an inflated view of themselves and their abilities and started seeing the opinions of disagreeing others as mainly a problem to be solved, or a disease to be cured.
A funny irony here is this particular form of governance which heavily favours the (elitist) liberal element in a liberal democracy as opposed to the populist (democratic) element, came to call itself democracy with a rallying cry about “saving our democracy”.

G M
G M
5 months ago

Very high immigration levels in Canada created very high demand for housing, leading to very high housing costs.
Many young people can no longer afford to buy a house.

The Canadian health system was shaky and weak at the best of times, and the high immigration level has created very high health care demand leaving the health system in a shambles, unable to deliver adequate health care.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago

Populist rabble rouser.
So asking politicians to listen to the voters makes one a rabble rouser.
This stuff isn’t ‘Unherd’, its two a penny tosh from The Guardian or The Economist. I was led to expect more.

Walter Schwager
Walter Schwager
5 months ago

The Conservatives tried to be populist once, even creating a “Barbaric Cultural Practices” hotline, which flamed out in a spectacular fashion. They have a lock on populist voters in Alberta but they are locked out of Quebec, key to an electoral victory.

Walter Schwager
Walter Schwager
5 months ago

A cool and balanced analysis. The international student industry was out of control, offering a potential cheap route to immigration via fly-by-night diploma mills exploited by candidates who could only survive by working two jobs in substandard housing. It seems that the number of Indian candidates has already dropped precipitously so the immigration cuts may not be as draconian as they seem. Colleges may scream but they have made their own beds. Government intervention was long overdue.

Walter Schwager
Walter Schwager
5 months ago

One reason why Canadians have long accepted high levels of immigration is that our selection criteria clearly favour well-qualified, well-educated candidates via a point system. As a result immigrants generally do well, and their children have higher educational achievementls than native-born Canadians.