08/29/2013 11:30 EDT | Updated 10/29/2013 05:12 EDT

Immigrants a 'fiscal burden,' Fraser Institute report suggests

A new report suggests immigrants are imposing a "fiscal burden" of about $20 billion a year on Canadian taxpayers and recommends a number of radical changes to the country's immigration selection process, including bringing an end to the sponsorship of parents and grandparents.

The report, released today by the Fraser Institute, also proposes that the current immigrant selection process, which relies heavily on political considerations, be replaced with one that relies primarily on the private sector and labour market conditions.

"I recommend we get rid of the current system altogether, because it relies on decisions made by politicians on issues which are virtually unknowable and we substitute for it the judgment of business people," said Herbert Grubel, a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute and author of the report.

"People who employ workers, who know how much they can pay and have the government only make sure that the system works well and that the pay that is offered to these workers is at least enough to pay for the services they receive."

While Grubel argues that immigration of parents and grandparents be stopped completely, he says the changes should be phased in by making it applicable only to new immigrants arriving after the adoption of the proposed policy, allowing immigrants already in Canada to continue with the sponsorship of their parents and grandparents.

In May, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced new criteria for sponsoring parents and grandparents to come to Canada that are aimed at ensuring elderly immigrants don't end up on welfare or in social housing.

"I looked at the detailed steps he has taken and they’re all the right direction," Grubel said of Kenney's reforms. "But I am skeptical that they will in fact succeed in bringing in immigrants that will, in fact, pay for the government services that they consume and will not impose a burden on taxpayers."

The report also advocates for a public inquiry about the number of immigrants that are admitted into Canada on economic and humanitarian grounds.

Grubel said his research also indicated that immigrants who arrived in Canada after 1986 have been less successful economically than those who arrived before that time.