Tim Hudak’s plan to bring more immigrants to Ontario may not resonate with voters in general or even the Progressive Conservative Party's base — but it may make him more attractive to voters who lean Liberal.
The latest results from CBC's Vote Compass indicates just 16 per cent of respondents support increased immigration to the province. Among respondents who intend to vote PC on election day, just 9 per cent think that Ontario should admit more immigrants.
But while Vote Compass users were asked about immigration in general, Hudak focused Tuesday on skilled immigrants, saying he didn't want them passing over Ontario to take jobs in Saskatchewan and Alberta. The distinction is significant.
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"Despite less favourable attitudes towards increased immigration in general, a recent study by Stanford political scientist Jens Hainmueller finds that Americans are more amenable to increased immigration when those immigrants are highly skilled," said Clifton van der Linden, CEO of Vox Pop Labs, which developed Vote Compass. "If the findings hold for Ontarians, Hudak's focus on skilled immigrants may play to his advantage."
Hudak said he can regain Ontario's status as the top destination in the country for skilled immigrants by making sure their skills and credentials are recognized, ensuring international students who are doing well can stay to work in Ontario and making better use of the province’s nominee program, which helps immigrants and their families get permanent residency when they have a job offer.
He also said other parts of his platform, including lowering hydro rates and cutting personal taxes after balancing the budget, would help attract skilled immigrants as well.
Respondents support maintaining or lowering levels
Thirty-eight per cent of respondents to Vote Compass are in favour of immigration levels in Ontario remaining about the same as they are now, while 39 per cent want fewer immigrants admitted into the province. They were responding to the question "How many immigrants should Ontario admit?"
When respondents' positions on immigration are broken down by their vote intention, Liberal supporters are least likely to support lower immigration levels. Van der Linden said Hudak may be looking to appeal to those Liberal voters.
"This is clearly an attempt to soften the PC position on immigration policy to get at the 'red Tory' vote heading into the election," van der Linden said, referring to voters who may switch between Liberal and PC ballots.
Of the respondents who indicated they would vote Liberal, 27 per cent supported lower immigration levels in Ontario. By contrast, 53 per cent of respondents who indicated a preference for the PCs and 37 per cent of those who indicated an intention to vote NDP supported lower immigration levels. Among Vote Compass respondents who said they intended to vote for the Green Party, 30 per cent favoured a lower immigration level. (Mobile users, see the chart here)
How many immigrants should Ontario admit?
Percentage of Vote Compass respondents based on voting preference.
The findings are based on 34,345 respondents to Vote Compass between May 7 and May 19. Though Vote Compass is not a poll, respondent data are weighted using the latest population estimates from Statistics Canada to approximate a representative sample of the Ontario population.
Developed by a team of political scientists from Vox Pop Labs, Vote Compass is an educational tool offered exclusively in Canada for CBC News.
Charts: How many immigrants should Ontario admit?
A look at other demographic breakdowns for responses on immigration levels:
Mobile users click here for interactive charts about support levels for immigration in Ontario, according to Vote Compass respondents.