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        Immigration May Lead To Diverse Election Strategies

                          For Parties in 2018


By Randall White

The premier is off on a mission to Ontario’s second-largest trading partner in China at the moment. 

But back in the homeland the latest census figures –– which are from 2016 –– on “Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity” continue to raise thoughts about the big question mark of the June 7, 2018 provincial election. 

According to Statistics Canada, for the country at large almost 22% of the population have reported they were, or had been at one time, a landed immigrant or permanent resident in Canada.

This is well above the current 14% immigrant population in the United States and 13% in the United Kingdom, although not as high as Australia at 28% and Switzerland at 29%.

The Canada-wide immigrant population, as measured in 2016, is far from evenly spread across provinces.

It ranges from Ontario (29%) and BC (28%) to New Brunswick (5%) and Newfoundland and Labrador (more than 2%).

There is great variety, for example, in the immigrant numbers for the 45 “Census Metropolitan Areas” (CMAs) and “Census Agglomerations” (CAs) that Statistics Canada reports on for Ontario and which account for almost 90% of the provincial population.

For analytic purposes the variety can be reduced to five quite different percent-immigrant “nations”, ranked from highest to lowest. 

(1) Global City. The sprawling “global city” of the Toronto CMA[1]  had almost 5.9 million people in 2016, accounting for just over 44% of the total Ontario population. 

It also had by far the largest percentage of immigrants in all 45 Ontario CMAs and CAs.

A breathtaking 46% of the population reported that they were or had been in the past a landed immigrant or permanent resident as of Census Day 2016.

(2) Bigger Cities and Towns. Eight large Southern Ontario CMAs outside the Toronto region, and two related smaller CAs, have a collective 2016 population of more than 4 million people, accounting for some 30% of the total Ontario population.

These bigger cities and towns have immigrant populations ranging from just over 24% in the Hamilton CMA to just less than 17% in St. Catharines-Niagara.

(3) Smaller Cities and Towns. Five other generally smaller Southern Ontario CMAs and an additional 21 CAs have a collective population of almost 1.5 million people, accounting for some 11% of the province at large. 

These places have immigrant populations numbering more than 13% in the Barrie CMA to less than 4% in the Ontario part of the Hawkesbury CA that spills into Quebec.

(4) Northern Ontario Cities and Towns. The two northern CMA s and six CAs have more than half a million people. And the immigrant population is close to 9% in the Thunder Bay CMA and close to 6% in Sudbury. 

The CAs range from having more than 10% immigrants in the burgeoning retirement community of Elliot Lake to just more than 3% in Timmins (the old mining “city with a heart of gold”).

(5) First Nations Reserves. According to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, 126 bands of some 90,000 “Registered Indians” live on 207 reserves and settlements across Ontario, from near Windsor in the south to the shores of Hudson Bay.

The immigrant population on these reserves and settlements is 0%. But in many cases they have the most rapidly growing populations in the province!

So, what could all this mean for the 2018 Ontario election? 

All major provincial parties have been openly courting the very large immigrant population in the vote-rich global city of Toronto. Liberals may once have had some advantage there, but polls suggest this is fading.

At the same time, a new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has suggests “larger cities are more resilient to technological unemployment.” The “smaller the city, the greater the impact it faces from automation.” And this “could encourage legislators to pay special attention to workers in smaller cities and offer them support services.”

This real-world syndrome may already be bearing down on some of Ontario’s smaller southern cities and towns. And it is conceivable that voters in these places could find fresh attractions in Liberal “support-service” policies (along with the new Ontario plan for legalizing cannabis).

Noble efforts have already been made to enhance the participation of both Northern Ontario and Ontario First Nations in 2018. But can these voters turn out in big enough numbers to move province-wide results?

The latest 2016 census results on “Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity” could also forecast some volatile public moods. 

Happily, for the moment none of the major political parties in Canada’s most populous province are trying too aggressively to exploit culturally divisive policies for political gain. 

Though the simple truth is that immigrant populations in too many parts of Ontario are just too large now to make these kinds of policies work!







About Randall White

Randall White is a former senior policy advisor with the Ontario Ministry of Finance, and a former economist with the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. He is the author of Ontario 1610-1985: A Political and Economic History and Ontario Since 1985. He writes frequently about Ontario politics.
Posted date : November 26, 2017

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