‘Bring me workers’: Quebec unveils plan to deal with growing labour shortage

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said business owners in the regions are asking for more workers.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said business owners in the regions are asking for more workers. Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

The Liberal government has released a plan to address Quebec’s growing labour shortage, saying the province needs to fill 90,000 jobs immediately and more than one million over the next 10 years.

The government is pledging over $1 billion over the next five years in hopes of attracting and retaining more workers.

READ MORE: Quebec’s minimum wage climbs to $12 per hour as of May 1

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said that business owners in the regions are scrambling to meet demands due to the labour shortage.

“‘Bring me workers’ — that’s what I hear,” he said.

“‘Bring me workers from anywhere, any colour, any religion, any language. I want workers.’ That’s what I hear.”

There is $16 million set aside for next year to attract more qualified workers, as well as retain temporary workers and international students already in Quebec.

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As part of the plan, the government is also investing more than $30 million in 2019 in French language training, including online French classes.

‘The best tool for integration is employment’

The Parti Québécois also revealed their immigration plan earlier Tuesday.

Both plans propose to address the labour shortage in the regions by sending immigrants who express interest in working there directly to the regions.

READ MORE: PQ wants 1 in 4 newcomers to settle outside Montreal area

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said the Opposition leader could be a good partner in the area.

“Listening to Mr. Lisée, that is good news. He now sees obviously, explicitly immigration as a positive factor in Quebec. And he plays a role, he makes suggestions, which is good. That’s also a change that should be noted.”

While the plans are similar in some ways, the PQ said all immigrants coming to Quebec should already have a sufficient command of French to be able to immediately join the workforce– but Couillard argues that requirement is not necessary.

“The best tool for integration is employment,” said Couillard, adding the best tool for learning French is also through employment.

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“Why? You talk to your fellow workers at lunch, evening. They will invite you to their home ‘Come out with us go to restaurant’ then you chat. And you learn language by osmosis as well.”

Couillard said he plans on a slight increase in the number of immigrants over the next few years, but said his government does not plan on any substantial increase.

with files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise