What does a CAQ win mean for Quebec immigration?
When it comes to his plan to slash immigration, the leader of the Coalition Avenir Quebec has not been afraid to court criticism.
François Legault has vowed to cut the number of immigrants coming into Quebec and force them to take an assessment of their knowledge both of the French language and of the values outlined in Quebec’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Both of those vows have brought him into conflict with fellow provincial party leaders, with some like the Quebec Liberals accusing him of stirring of divisions and others like the Parti Quebecois accusing him of not going far enough.
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But as the newly-elected premier of a majority government, the question now becomes how soon will he be able to follow through on his promises to voters?
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With a majority of the seats in the National Assembly, the party will not need to get other parties on board to support its plans.
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Key among those is a vow to reduce the number of immigrants coming into Quebec each year from 50,000 to 40,000.
Those that arrive will need to pass a French-language and values test after three years.
And if they can’t, Legault has vowed to revoke their immigration certificate and report them to the federal government.
However, deportation does not fall under provincial authority.
As a result, the decision on whether to actually force those people to leave the country would require federal action, which could be difficult to get without proving the immigrants had failed to meet a less politically controversial criteria.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made embracing diversity a focus point for his government and may be less inclined to make such deportations a priority.
That could bring Legault into conflict with the federal government, especially as the fight continues for millions of dollars more in compensation to the province for the cost of caring for irregular border crossers that have flooded into Quebec over the past year-and-a-half.
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With a national election just one year away, getting federal support for measures deemed as unfairly targeting immigrants could be a tough sell.
The path to power for both the federal Liberals and Conservatives swings heavily through communities in regions like the Greater Toronto Area which have a diverse range of immigrant populations.
And while support for crackdowns on irregular migrants might find support among immigrants who feel they played by the rules and waited their turn, targeting those who have also followed all the rules just but because they, their children or their grandparents haven’t been able to pick up an additional language, may be hard-placed to find traction.
In fact, it could well lead instead for calls for the federal government to hold off on deporting those flagged by Quebec without additional reason, leading again to potential further conflict with a Legault-led government.
With his majority victory, the question of how far Legault will be able to go no longer rests on who will stand behind him.
Over the coming year, it may well become more a question of who on the federal stage thinks there will be political benefit in standing up to him — and who thinks there’s more benefit in staying silent.
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