Where do Quebec’s political parties stand on immigration?
Earlier this week, Quebec’s three main political parties revealed their plans for an immigration strategy to ease growing labour shortages. That has turned into a controversial debate about which parties really value the contributions of Quebec’s immigrants.
“‘Bring me workers!’ That’s what I hear. ‘Bring me workers from anywhere, any colour, any religion, any language,'” Premier Philippe Couillard said during a presser Tuesday after unveiling his government’s strategy for addressing the labour shortage.
However, if the political parties agree on what the problem is, they naturally differ on the solutions.
Once in Quebec, more than 25 per cent of immigrants qualified to fill many open jobs, choose to leave. Less than four per cent of them choose to live in Quebec’s regions. And 15 per cent are unemployed for the first several years.
So how do we attract and retain immigrants we need?
The Parti Quebecois (PQ) say it would create a system to recognize foreign credentials before newcomers arrive. The PQ also plans to fast-track immigrants who want to work outside of Montreal or Quebec City — an idea the premier on Tuesday said he also agreed with.
One of the most controversial aspects of the issue of immigration is who Quebec should accept.
The PQ says all immigrants coming to Quebec should already speak French. The Liberals say they will invest millions in French-language training, but will not make it mandatory to apply for permanent residency. The CAQ plans to force non-French-speaking immigrants to learn the language over the course of three years. If not, they’ll ask Ottawa to expel that person.
“That’s the big issue in Quebec. … Language is becoming more a question of having the capacity to be French in Quebec,” said Chedly Belkhodja, principal with the School of Community and Public Affairs at Concordia University.
“But it’s also important to be able to function in English. That’s the reality.”
The parties will try to convince Quebecers that each of their plans makes the most sense beginning this weekend, with party conventions for both the PQ and the CAQ in Drummondville and Levis, respectfully. The Liberals will meet next weekend in Montreal.
The election campaign officially kicks off Aug. 29.
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