‘I have a hard time seeing it’: Montreal mayor rejects CAQ plan to reduce immigration

In this file photo, Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault and Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante speak to the media after their meeting Friday, September 7, 2018 in Montreal. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Montreal’s mayor rejected Coalition Avenir Québec‘s plan to reduce the number of newcomers to the province as immigration remained at the forefront of the election campaign Monday.

Valérie Plante said she found it difficult to accept the Coalition’s proposed plan to reduce the annual number to 40,000 from 50,000 given a labour shortage in her city and elsewhere in Quebec.

“I have trouble seeing how we could reduce the number of immigrants to Montreal, I have a hard time seeing it,” Plante said.

Immigration is a hot-button issue, with Coalition Leader Francois Legault facing repeated questions on his party’s stance in recent days.

READ MORE: CAQ leader criticized for incorrectly answering question on immigration

Cutting immigration is a central tenet of the Coalition platform, which includes a proposal to reduce immigration by 20 per cent and require newcomers pass a French and values test within three years of arrival as a condition of staying in the province.

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Legault said Sunday he was on “solid ground” with his immigration proposals, despite having incorrectly answered a question on the subject a day earlier about how long a permanent resident had to wait before applying for citizenship.

Plante didn’t address the subject or take a position when she met with Legault earlier in the campaign, but pressed by reporters while meeting with Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard, Plante said the reason for her disapproval is a lack of manpower in Montreal where three per cent of jobs remain vacant.

“I share that problem with mayors across the province, that’s something we talk a lot about,” Plante said. “The question is what needs to be done to support good integration.”

Plante said Montreal, which receives about 65 per cent of immigrants, will stay a very welcoming city. And she’s willing to share some of Montreal’s experience with other regions so they too can benefit from immigration.

“We need to consider it in a very pragmatic way,” Plante said.

“To me it’s an asset, immigrants entering the work force, entering the society is an asset.”

WATCH: The Quebec Liberals and the CAQ are proposing two opposing plans to deal with the province’s growing labour shortage. 

Click to play video: 'Quebec Liberals, CAQ propose solutions to ease labour shortage'
Quebec Liberals, CAQ propose solutions to ease labour shortage

With Legault in debate preparation, it was up to fellow Coalition candidates to defend their leader.

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Francois Bonnardel said despite Legault’s missteps, he called his leader an expert on immigration.

“Of course Mr. Legault is an expert in immigration,” said Bonnardel, whose party’s announcement about enlarging the scope of medically-assisted dying and a $5 million investment in Alzheimer’s research was overshadowed by the immigration issue.

Bonnardel said Quebecers have known for two years what his party’s plan was on immigration.

“We know the situation, we know the subject, we said to Quebecers what we want to do, we want the 40,000 immigrants to be a success,” he said.

READ MORE: Immigrant community urges Quebec politicians to relax stance on language

Couillard, who on Day 26 promised $1,000 to Quebecers who buy an electric vehicle, was also asked about immigration.

The Liberal leader said with 100,000 jobs to fill this year and an estimated 1.3 million in the coming decade, it would be a mistake to reduce the immigration levels.

“I believe that Quebecers will in significant numbers make the province a welcoming place after Oct. 1,” Couillard said.

Elsewhere, the Parti Québécois said they would favour local companies and overhaul the premise of using the lowest bidder for public contracts to factor in other elements like environment, labour rights and French.

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The sovereigntist party says that would make it more difficult for corruption and collusion among entrepreneurs.

Meanwhile, Québec solidaire said it would ensure certain appointments are made by the legislature and not by the government alone, to avoid partisanship.

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