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Opinion: Don Curry, Canadians are not getting old—they are old

'There is no question that immigration levels must remain high, with an annual intake above one per cent of our population, or higher'
senior upset or confused stock image

Every year we get one year older.

Isn’t that fascinating?

That simple fact makes a demographer’s job fairly easy. Ten years from now we will all be 10 years older, add the projected birth rate, subtract the projected death rate, and add the projected immigration rate and you have our population 10 years down the road.

What demographers predicted years ago is now the reality. The Canadian population is old.

The 2021 census tells us 19 per cent of us are 65 or older and 22 per cent are between the ages of 55 and 64, preparing to retire. That is 41 per cent of our population.

As columnist John Ibbitson wrote in The Globe and Mail on April 28, in 2016 there were 96,000 more seniors 65 and older than children 15 and under. Five years later the gap has grown to more than a million. As he put it, “That’s a demographic freight train.”

Canada’s fertility rate is 1.4 children per woman but the replacement rate is 2.1 for a stable population. Immigration helps to close the gap, but cannot reverse the trend.

As a leading-edge baby boomer I have been paying attention to demographic trends for years. It has never been difficult to predict that when baby boomers need home health care or institutional care that there will be a shortage of Personal Support Workers and nurses. That shortage already exists.

I have many clients from the Philippines living in North Bay and most of them work in health care. Some of them look at my grey hair, laugh, and say “Don’t worry Mr. Curry, we will be here to take care of you when you need it.”

My 97-year-old mother receives home care in Chilliwack, B.C., and she loves the Filipino PSWs who come in to help her with daily tasks. Without them, she would be in a retirement facility. Like most of us, she prefers to stay as long as possible in her own home.

There is no question that immigration levels must remain high, with an annual intake above one per cent of our population, or higher. Those who are against high immigration levels need to do the math. Every year we are all one year older.

While my immigration practice is skewed toward permanent residence applications through the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot program (RNIP), I also serve many Canadians sponsoring their foreign wives or common-law partners.

The map on my office wall shows 28 clients from the Philippines, 14 from India, seven from Mexico and smaller numbers from 36 other countries. We are lucky that they want to come to North Bay and are fortunate to have RNIP as the main driver of the city’s new push for immigration.

Statistics Canada is releasing 2021 census data gradually through 2022 and we won’t know North Bay’s immigrant population until the immigration numbers are released on October 26.

I ran into Peter Chirico the other day, almost literally. I was driving into the downtown Twiggs parking lot and he was walking out. After I found the right button to push to open my window we had a chat about RNIP. He told me employers are increasingly getting on board with the program and the number of community recommendations for permanent residence is holding steady.

We talked about an approval the day before for a family of five, including two pre-schoolers and one in elementary school. Immigration is helping to keep our school populations viable and fill job vacancies at the same time.

As everyone knows, or should, Peter Chirico is the CEO of the North Bay & District Chamber of Commerce, which runs the RNIP program in tandem with Yes Employment. The coordinator is Yaccelle Thibeault, who works for Yes Employment.

What is significant about RNIP is that employers can hire foreign nationals without going through the costly and cumbersome Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process, and foreign nationals can apply for permanent residence once they have a job in the city. It’s a win-win-win for the employer, worker, and the city.

Ask the people at Yes Employment or the Labour Market Group if immigration is needed. Job vacancies in North Bay are at record highs and immigrants are helping to fill the gaps.

I know this column gets many BayToday readers angry and I have written about that before. They oppose increased immigration levels for some misguided reason.

They liked to tell me how stupid I am in the comment section before BayToday cut them off, and on Facebook and Twitter. I deleted those accounts about a year ago and now enjoy more time each day not reading venomous attacks. My LinkedIn followers are much more civil.

All the naysayers need to know, is every year we all get one year older.

Editor’s Note: Don Curry is a Regulated Immigration Consultant living in North Bay and is a member of the BayToday community advisory committee.