TORONTO - Wake up. Your Immigration policies and programs are hurting the local economy. With whom do you consult before you decide who will come to Canada and whom you will exclude? You don’t seem to have a plan, and you are bringing in people without thinking how you will integrate them into the structure of Canadian society, as we have come to know it. You are putting at risk the one industry that is 100% Canadian.
That is how the conversation over lunch with a prominent Developer/Builder/Entrepreneur began. He has been in business in this country - creating tens of thousands of jobs for Canadians and donating millions to philanthropic activities – for longer than the current (or the previous) prime Minister has been alive.
“Your policies are choking the engine of the economy in Southern Ontario – the construction sector,” he said, with the emphasis of one who lives the myriad of complex interdependent economic activities spawned by a healthy Building Industry.
My efforts to clarify my standing as a former, not current, member of government were unsuccessful. “Don’t be defensive; you have an obligation to shed light on the consequences of your party’s policies,” he said, “don’t shirk your responsibility, too many families depend on it.”
He was both frustrated and angry. We agreed to continue on condition that I keep names out of the conversation. He was a veritable torrent of facts, figures, circumstances, federal/provincial policy impacts. He also promised to provide me a memo, in confidence, summarizing “the tirade”. I received it the next day.
The [housing construction] industry is directly responsible for 26% of the goods-producing sector in Ontario. That’s not counting the multiplier effect on dependent industrial subsectors like furniture, appliances, utilities, attendant services, roads and transportation et cetera.
Yet “your short-sighted Immigration policies will wreck the market”, he said with a firmness that called for remedial action. “Don’t get me wrong, Canada needs people, talented and ambitious. My industry needs these people, otherwise we would not be in business. But of the 240, 000 permanent residents you landed last year, how many were bricklayers? Carpenters?”
Since I started in this business more than a half century ago, I have “never witnessed such a… shortage of skilled tradesmen”, he said. Drive anywhere in the GTHA and you will see “thousands of houses that require bricking, carpentry, etc.”
The business runs on presales, but if the tradesmen are unavailable, “closings” are put off. Penalties or premiums are applied. An already chaotic market is held ransom to labour shortage in a well paid marketplace.
“We’ve been forced to stop selling”, says our Builder, “because we lack the skilled tradesmen to build the houses we’ve sold”. What selling prices will be a year from now, he cannot anticipate, and can’t budget.
But if he and others like him don’t have the workers, they can’t build anyway. That becomes our problem.