August 28, 2018 6:18 pm

CAQ, Liberals have opposing strategies to labour shortage, immigration

WATCH: The Quebec Liberals and the CAQ are proposing two opposing plans to deal with the province's growing labour shortage. As Global's Raquel Fletcher reports, the Quebec Liberal Party is turning to immigration – but the CAQ says the answer is better-paying jobs.

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If you ask the Liberals, Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) leader François Legault knows nothing about the economy. If you ask Legault, the Liberals’ immigration strategy has been a complete failure.

READ MORE: Where do Quebec’s political parties stand on immigration?

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The Liberal Party and the CAQ are presenting two opposing plans to deal with a growing economic concern: Quebec’s labour shortage. The Liberals are turning to immigration, while the CAQ is sticking to its promise to lower the number of immigrants to Quebec.

The back and forth over the economy is a whirlwind that has local business people caught up in the vortex of hot air.

READ MORE: Quebec City businesses challenged by shortage of workers

On Tuesday, the CAQ unveiled part of their economic strategy in Quebec City, where the labour shortage is a particular concern. Mayor Regis Labeaume has been sounding the alarm on this. He’s calling on the next government to ensure more francophone immigrants move to Quebec City.

However, Legault repeated his promise to lower immigration levels by 20 per cent.

“What we need first is to have well-paid jobs,” Legault said.

Legault announced that he would eliminate government waste and get rid of 5,000 public-sector jobs through attrition, which he says would save a CAQ government $1.18 billion and help pay for things like his school tax plan.

On immigration, Legault pointed out that about 13,000 of the 50,000 immigrants who come to Quebec every year don’t stay in the province. Some economists agree that Quebec would retain more immigrants if salaries were higher.

READ MORE: CAQ immigration policy urges newcomers be expelled if they fail to integrate

“The Liberals weren’t able to reduce the gap between Quebec and Ontario in the average salary, so we really need more private investment. We need to focus on the manufacturing sector because on average, salaries in the manufacturing business are 35 per cent better paid than average salaries,” he said.

He said Investissement Quebec needs to be “more aggressive” in finding new private investment to Quebec.

The Liberals look at the problem differently.

“What about low-skill jobs?” asks outgoing Employment Minister François Blais. He said many employers can’t afford to increase wages to the point it would attract workers.

Go into any mall, he said, the store owner will tell you: “It’s impossible for us to pay $25 per hour, it’s clearly impossible,” he said.

READ MORE: Mosque shooting victims fight against stereotypes in court testimonies

Another challenge is that right now, most immigrants settle in Montreal. On Monday, Philippe Couillard said if elected, the government will work to help match immigration applicants who show an interest in living in the Quebec regions with jobs that fit their skill set.

“We’re going to be working very much with the businesses, employers and community groups,” he said.

Couillard acknowledged that this is a longstanding challenge. Recently, a Syrian family he himself sponsored moved from the Lac Saint-Jean area.

“They decided to leave and go to Montreal. There’s tremendous attraction from large cities in which there is already a large community of the same origin, let’s say,” he said.

He added that the government can help to direct immigrants to different regions, but “after that, it’s up to the regions and the community, with our help, to keep them there and make them part of the community. And I think this will happen.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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