OTTAWA, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- Canada's business community has called on parliament to rethink Canadian foreign policy and increase immigration to build a labor force needed to expand the economy and offset an aging population.
The call comes at a polarized time in Canadian politics where western Canadians are calling for secession, the government of the French-speaking province of Quebec requiring immigrants to pass a "values" test, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau beginning his second term with a reduced Liberal Party caucus following the Oct. 21 general election.
"The changing politics of international affairs, the absence of predictable global leadership and the evolving threats to Canadian sovereignty" necessitates a review of both Canada's defense strategy and its foreign policy, which has not been updated for 18 years, according to a report released on Wednesday by the Ottawa-based Business Council of Canada, which represents companies that employ about 1.7 million Canadians.
The report, entitled "A better future for Canadians," is based on nine months of consultation with various stakeholders -- from chambers of commerce and boards of trade, to universities and think tanks in the country.
The non-partisan, non-profit Canadian business organization wants the federal government to set an annual immigration target equal to 1 percent of the country's population -- 376,000 based on the current number -- starting from 2021, the same year that the Trudeau government set in 2018 for Canada to accept 350,000 new arrivals, or 40,000 more immigrants from last year's total.
Canada has one of the industrialized world's fastest anticipated rates of increase in old-age dependency with the ratio of working Canadians (ages 15 to 64) to seniors expected to jump from 4.2:1 in 2012 to 2:1 by 2036, according to Canadian government projections.
Immigration will help bridge that growing workforce-retirement divide, according to a report by the Conference Board of Canada in May.
"If Canada gradually raises its immigration rate to 1 percent of its population by 2030 -- up from about 0.8 percent today -- newcomers would contribute some 5.3 million workers to the labor force and one third of the economic growth rate between 2018 and 2040," according to the Ottawa-based independent research organization.
Meanwhile, the Business Council report also called on the Canadian government to reduce the regulatory burden businesses face, which the organization's members identified in a survey earlier this year as the "single-most important factor weighing on Canadian competitiveness."
This year, the Trudeau government established the External Advisory Committee on Regulatory Competitiveness.
"A positive step," said the council, "but it falls short in one critical area: its role is limited to providing advice to Treasury Board," which oversees Canadian government spending on programs and services.