Tarmac and planes at the Pearson Airport in Toronto, Canada

Immigration, a key driver of the Canadian population and economic growth, is likely to remain stalled in 2021, says RBC Economics in a new report.

In 2020, Canada only managed to meet just over half of its pre-pandemic immigration target of 341,000 new residents, RBC said, as 184,000 people settled in the country amid an array of border restrictions caused by Covid-19.

The government is aiming to add 1.2 million new residents over the next three years to help make up for the shortfall in 2020, the report noted.

However, RBC projected that the ongoing effects of the pandemic will see immigration totals fall short again in 2021, with 275,000 new permanent residents predicted for the year ahead.

Continued border restrictions, significant quarantine requirements and substantial processing delays are all weighing against strong immigration totals for the current year, the report noted.

Additionally, the number of new applicants for permanent residency has dropped notably, and there isn’t much of a backlog of immigrants who have been approved but haven’t yet moved to Canada. This suggests that “even if borders open up soon, it will still take time to increase the flow of new immigrants back to pre-pandemic levels,” the report said.

“In the long-run, Canada does have the capacity to hit the ambitious targets set out last fall and population growth from new immigration will again return as the main driver. However, with the effects of the pandemic looking more likely to remain into the spring and summer, the headwinds listed above will keep immigration into Canada low throughout most of 2021.”