Quebec immigration minister Kathleen Weil was first elected in 2008 in the Montreal-area riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (NDG).
The mother of four was formerly president and CEO of the Foundation of Greater Montreal.
She remembers former premier Jean Charest asking her three times to enter politics – but she made a point of holding off until her youngest child was 13.
Weil sat down with Global News’ National Assembly correspondent Raquel Fletcher, where she voiced concerns on the discourse around immigration and mused about why she thinks more people should consider a career in politics.
RF: Immigration is a hot-button and divisive issue that doesn’t seem to be going away. How do we deal with that? Have we implemented enough of the Bouchard-Taylor recommendations?
KW: You have to make a distinction between immigration and diversity.
Immigration does bring diversity: cultural diversity, ethnic diversity, religious diversity.
When you talk about Bouchard-Taylor, obviously there are members of different religious communities that have been here for many, many years.
They could be third or fourth generation, but as immigration minister, my mandate is to make sure we have the best immigration system possible.
RF: The Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) has said that Quebecers are worried about immigration. Do you agree with that or is it politicians and commentators stirring the pot?
KW: It’s certainly politicians stirring the pot and I find it really actually quite disgraceful.
It would appear that after the American elections, the CAQ has decided to go really hard on this issue and it’s unfortunate.
It’s unfortunate because it’s not based on fact, it’s not based on research.
There’s a broad consensus on the reform that I brought and the reform is really focused on looking at our job market needs and fixing the mismatch between the people we select and the job market’s needs.
RF: The unemployment rate among new immigrants is quite high. What are we doing wrong when it comes to integrating them into Quebec society?
KW: That’s what the reform is looking at: how can we, at the front-end upon admission and selection, make sure these people can integrate in the job market more quickly?
That’s the reform we’re bringing in, it’s kind of an entry-express system. It’s not first come, first served.
The people are chosen because of the profile they have. Also, we’ll be creating a job bank.
We’ll ask people to put their names in the job bank and have employers in some cases meet these prospective candidates.
So, that’s our approach: immigration and the diversity it brings is an asset for Quebec.
RF: As immigration minister, you are very busy. What is that like? Is it difficult being a politician?
It really does, and in my case, maybe even more so because it’s what fills me with optimism, fills me totally with optimism and energy.
RF: Is that natural for you, or do you have to resist the cynicism of politics?
KW: I can’t be cynical. I’ve never been cynical. It’s not in my nature.
But politics, I would absolutely encourage people to considerate it. It’s absolutely such an exciting profession.
It can be challenging at times, but it’s so thrilling and the greatest thrill is people – your constituents, when you meet with them, when you help them solve problems.
So, if you like action and you like to be stimulated, I would encourage it – and I would encourage women as well.