Economist Reveals Canada May Be Undercounting Its Non-Permanent Residents by Over a Million

Canada’s official count of non-permanent residents, which includes foreign students, has been revealed to be significantly underreported — by over a million individuals — according to Benjamin Tal, Deputy Chief Economist of CIBC Capital Markets. 

At a gathering in Charlottetown, Tal informed the Liberal government that the official estimate of around one million non-permanent residents in Canada, as of 2021, is far lower than the actual count, which he believes to be closer to two million.

The undercounting discrepancy arises due to the Government of Canada’s failure to include individuals residing in the country without a visa in its calculations. The Statistics Canada software and coding incorrectly assume that temporary visa holders leave the country within 30 days of their visa’s expiration, when in fact a majority of them stay and apply for extensions. 

This practice leads to an omission of around one million non-permanent residents from official figures, with an additional 250,000, primarily international students, missing from census data.

“This is why even Statistics Canada believes that the census continues to undercount NPRs with valid visas in Canada,” Tal said.

The recent census further exacerbates the issue by only asking students to provide information if they live in their primary residences, causing confusion among those who return home to their parents during the year. 

This misclassification has severe consequences, including a distorted understanding of housing needs and affordability. The discrepancy hinders proper housing policy planning, as the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation relies on census data to make forecasts.

“The practical implication of that undercounting is that the housing affordability crisis Canada is facing is actually worse than perceived, and calls for an even more urgent and aggressive policy action,” Tal warned.

Canada’s immigration levels have surged, with over 1.5 million immigrants expected in the next three years. Despite these increased figures, the true count of non-permanent residents is not fully captured. 

Tal’s findings are corroborated by Henry Lotin, founder of Integrative Trade and Economics and former federal economist, who estimates that over a million individuals are omitted from the official population due to expired visa holders remaining in Canada while awaiting new visas.

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