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Housing Shortage Calls for Poilievre’s Proposal to Limit International Student Enrollment

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A Conservative government under Pierre Poilievre would be open to limiting the number of international students entering Canada, the Opposition leader said during a press conference on Aug. 29 in Oshawa, Ontario.

Student numbers will be “determined by the availability of spaces at universities and homes for those students,” Mr. Poilievre said when asked by a reporter about a potential cap on international student visas to help lower housing prices.

“That is a common-sense approach that always flourished and made our international student program the best in the world before Trudeau arrived,” Mr. Poilievre said.

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Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities Sean Fraser suggested on Aug. 22 that capping the growth in the number of international students in Canada could reduce the demand on housing. Mr. Fraser, who was the immigration minister before the recent cabinet shuffle, told CTV News that his government was looking “under every stone” for solutions to Canada’s housing crisis.

“The International Student Program has seen such growth and in such concentrated areas that it is really starting to put an unprecedented level of demand in some instances on the job market,” said Mr. Fraser on Aug. 21 during a three-day meeting of the federal cabinet.

Housing has become a major political issue in Canada, with the Canadian Real Estate Association reporting earlier in 2023 that the average price of a home in Canada had hit $716,000. The federal government plans to bring in 465,000 new immigrants in 2023, another 485,000 next year, and 500,000 in 2025.

In 2022, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) reported an unprecedented number of international students in Canada. By the end of October 2022, IRCC had processed over 750,300 study permit applications during that year, saying it was “a record, well beyond the 590,000 applications processed by this time [in 2021].”

Mr. Poilievre said he believed that Mr. Fraser “owes Canadians an apology” for his handling of Canada’s International Students Program while he was the immigration minister. “He was the one—by his own admission—that signed off on visas for students to come here when they were five students for every unit of housing at colleges,” he said.

When asked by a reporter on Aug. 23 if Canada should lower the number of international student permits, Mr. Poilievre did not answer the question. “We as Conservatives will make sure that international students have homes, health care, and when they want it, jobs,” Mr. Poilievre said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has claimed that immigration to Canada could provide the labour needed to build more housing and address the housing shortfall. “One of the things I have heard consistently in the construction industry is the lack of labour: more carpenters, more skilled labourers, more folks to work in the construction industry to build the homes that we are needing to match the growing economy that we have right across the country,” Mr. Trudeau said during a press conference in Prince Edward Island on Aug. 21.

“That’s why immigration remains a solution in terms of the labour shortages we’re seeing right across the country, in terms of building the kind of future for all Canadians that we need,” he said.





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