Canadian-immigration-pandemic Photo: James Bombales

Rental and condo markets in Canada’s major urban hubs were particularly hard hit last year by the precipitous drop in immigration caused by the pandemic.

But in early 2021, immigration has shown signs of a strong rebound with new federal government policies boosting the numbers. Now, a new program that’s making it easier for temporary workers and international students to stay in Canada permanently is winning praise from an RBC economist as a potential “game-changer” in countering 2020’s huge immigration shortfall.

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RBC Senior Economist Andrew Agopsowicz wrote earlier this month that the new immigration pathway should positively impact the shortfall by prioritizing “people with healthcare-related skills as well as those who can meet current high demand in essential-occupation categories like delivery drivers, construction workers and food harvesters.”

According to Agopsowicz, 25,000 new permanent residents were admitted in January with another 23,000 in February. These figures are close to totals achieved in the same months of 2020, before immigration collapsed in the face of the pandemic. They also represent a strong recovery from the 13,000 new permanent resident monthly average hit during the March to December period last year.

The new pathway announced by the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship will be a big contributor to the federal government’s ambitious plan to welcome 401,000 new permanent residents this year. While Agopsowicz believes the country is now on track to exceed RBC’s own immigration forecast for 2021, he remains skeptical on whether it will meet the target laid out late last year as part of the government’s effort to address the immigration shortfall.

Even if the target is missed, the current effort to speed up the immigration rebound should have a positive impact on the housing market in the long-term.

“Growth in the housing market is predicated on population growth, and from Canada’s perspective and certainly drilling down into the GTA, immigration is a key driver of population growth,” the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board’s Jason Mercer told Livabl in November.

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