Political and university officials in Saskatchewan, as well as some university students, are tepid about the notion of limiting international student admissions.
The cap was recently floated by the federal Liberals during a cabinet ministers retreat in Charlottetown, where, among other things, they discussed the country's housing crisis. The limit was an option being discussed to ease demand in the market.
"For the longest time, we've been trying to attract newcomers to Saskatchewan to build this province. That includes international students," said Michael Kram, the Conservative MP for Regina-Wascana.
"What happens in downtown Toronto is not necessarily what happens here in Regina. We are a large country with vastly different issues from one region to another."
Addressing housing is a main prerogative for the new Liberal cabinet.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), a Crown corporation that focuses on affordable housing, released a report last year that estimated Canada needs to build 5.8 million units — including two million rentals — by 2030 to achieve affordable housing.
The latest rental market report, published by the CMHC in June, suggests demand for rental units in Canada outpaced the available supply last year, in part because of migration and students returning to on-campus learning, as well as higher home prices.
Hundreds of thousands more people have come to Canada to study since the new millennium, according to data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. At the end of last year, Canada was hosting more than 807,000 international students, including more than 13,000 in Saskatchewan.
Sean Fraser, the federal housing, infrastructure and communities minister, told reporters last week that putting a cap on the number of international students is an option that ought to be weighed, while noting newcomers are not to blame for the lack of affordable housing.
Fraser — who held the immigration portfolio until last month's cabinet shuffle — also plans to meet with post-secondary institutions to discuss how to help students find living space in the rental market.
Federal opposition politicians, including Kram, provincial governments and post-secondary stakeholders have objected to the concept.
Saskatchewan's ministry of advanced education feels a limit would be an overreach, a ministry spokesperson told CBC News in a statement.
The ministry finds "no justification" for such a cap, given post-secondary education is a provincial jurisdiction and the province's academic institutions can better judge an appropriate number of international students to admit, the spokesperson said.
The CMHC rental report suggests Saskatchewan's two metropolises — Regina and Saskatoon — are experiencing similar phenomena to the rest of the country.
As of Aug. 16, about one in four students enrolled at the University of Regina this fall are international students, according to preliminary statistics sent by a university spokesperson. Official enrolment numbers will be confirmed in October.
There are nearly 4,000 international students enrolled for the semester, an increase of about 1,000 from the previous fall, data shows.
But there are 400 to 500 rooms available on campus, president Jeff Keshen told CBC News, adding that the university is "highly ethical" when attracting students.
"I don't think that we have the same situation as we see in some Ontario communities," Keshen said.
"We are empathetic. We understand that many of our international students — in addition to their studies — are working in the broader community and they do have problems getting housing, or they're doubling or tripling up in order to be able to afford it."
CBC News interviewed several university students originally from outside of Canada. Each understood the need for the government to prioritize Canadians, but their opinions about limiting international students differed.
"Any international student can come another year, or maybe [go] to another country," said Mariana Ortiz, a 19-year-old exchange student from Colima, Mexico, studying at the U of R.
Jiuliana Zanella, left, Allison Mondoza, centre, and Mariana Ortiz, right, are international exchange students attending the University of Regina. (Jessie Anton/CBC)
Meanwhile, Jiuliana Zanella, a U of R exchange student from Torreon, Mexico, disagreed saying it could close off opportunities for some people trying to achieve "a better life."
Aakhansha Majumdar, president of the University of Saskatchewan's International Students' Association, told CBC News that, if a limit were to be implemented, there would need to be results.
"If it doesn't do anything, then it feels like it's just deviating the topic from affordable housing to international students," said Majumdar, a 22-year-old who has studied in Canada for several years.
"If you put a limit on one situation or problem, there should be a solution to it. If there's no solution, or if we don't see a change, that means the decision wasn't worth it."
Each person interviewed by CBC News, as well as the Ministry of Advanced Education spokesperson, noted that international students enrich the community.
Most also said those students contribute to labour market and, if they stay in Saskatchewan, can help grow the labour market and economy.
Many international students work multiple jobs while in school, Majumdar said, adding that she's currently working three.
Many international students also apply to programs that have labour markets needing workers, such as health-care, engineering and computer science, she said.