The Quebec government tabled its plan to lower the province’s immigration threshold by 20 per cent Tuesday afternoon at the beginning of question period.
“Reducing immigration levels in 2019 is a transitory step that offers us the necessary latitude to undertake efficient and personalized actions in terms of selection, French language training and integration,” said Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette.
In the report tabled by Jolin-Barrette, the government’s target objective for 2019 is to admit between 38,000 and 42,000 immigrants. That includes between 21,700 and 24,300 economic immigrants, 8,900 and 9,400 family reunification immigrants, and 6,800 and 7,500 refugees.
The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government received a barrage of questions shortly after about how it was going to address a growing labour shortage.
“For us, it’s not logical,” Québec Solidaire co-spokesperson, Manon Massé told reporters. “How can the the government expect to fill jobs while lowering the number of immigrants it admits into the province?”
Parti Québécois MNA Catherine Fournier said immigration shouldn’t be focused on numbers, but on Quebec’s “ability to integrate better the immigrants that are coming here.”
“The question is how can we integrate better? That’s it. That’s what Quebecers want,” she said.
Quebec Liberal Party interim leader Pierre Arcand said that there was a 40 per cent increase in jobs to fill in Quebec and yet nothing was announced in the government’s economic update Monday to address the province’s labour shortage.
He pointed to how services are lacking in long-term and seniors’ care homes because of a lack of orderlies.
WATCH: Quebec government unveils economic update
Quebec’s economy minister, Pierre Fitzgibbon said the issue has been “overly blown up,” as the immigration reduction is “temporary.”
“There’s no doubt that economic immigrants are part of the equation,” Fitzgibbon said during a media scrum.
He added the government believes there was a lack of integration.
“It was not executed the way we thought it should be, so we have to address that first,” he said. “That has to be done through some kind of reduction, but parallel to that, it’s no question that if we properly tackle the requirements we have in labour shortages, I think economic immigrants is going to be part of it.”
Concerns from the federal government
Immigration is both a federal and provincial responsibility and the two governments are negotiating changes to the current agreement, but the Legault and Trudeau governments are in stark contrast on this issue.
The federal Liberals plan to increase immigration levels to 350,000 a year by 2021 (or one per cent of the Canadian population).
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also expressed concerns about the timing of reducing immigration levels in Quebec.
“We’ll continue our discussions with them, but what I am hearing across Quebec are business owners and businesses worried about the growing labour shortage,” he said.
“I’m not sure it’s the best moment to cut the number of people arriving.”
Quebec’s plan would require approval from the federal government in order to be implemented.
While the province does not directly control the number of refugees or immigrants accepted under Canada’s family reunification program, it does control how many economic immigrants it admits every year.
— With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise and the Canadian Press