Despite Ottawa’s ambitions to drastically increase the country’s immigration quotas, Quebec Premier François Legault continues to insist that the province cannot accept more than 50,000 immigrants annually. Legault told reporters on Wednesday that the federal government has to comprehend that Quebec is facing a ‘unique battle’ to maintain the French language.
He made these remarks in response to Ottawa’s declaration on Tuesday that it would want to welcome 500,000 immigrants annually to Canada by 2025. In contrast, according to the federal Immigration Department, 405,000 permanent residents were allowed entry in 2016. Legault stated that ‘there was an issue already at 400,000, and it’s considerably more so at 500,000.
The Quebec labour shortfall can be addressed via immigration, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who also said that Ottawa will support Quebec’s efforts to boost its economy. According to Trudeau, Quebec has always had the option to raise its immigration thresholds. ‘ I know that every time I speak to company owners in Montreal or in the provinces, they underline how crucial it is to combat the labour shortage’. The province of Quebec and Ottawa have an immigration deal that allows Quebec to absorb 23% of the 500,000 immigrants that Canada accepts annually, or around 115,000 individuals.
The greatest yearly influx of immigrants that the province can successfully integrate is 50,000, according to Legault, who also noted that even the most ambitious proposal put up by a political party during the most recent provincial election had an upper limit of 80,000 arrivals. Later on Wednesday, Quebec’s immigration minister, Christine Fréchette, declared that the 50,000 figure was a definite estimate. No matter how many immigrants arrive in other parts of Canada, she told reporters, ‘that will not change.’ Asserting the province’s view that Ottawa should have more authority over immigration, Fréchette said she had a conversation with federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser last week. She said that the conversation will continue.
In order to ensure the long-term viability of French, Fréchette remarked, ‘we will utilise every tool at our disposal to achieve the highest percentage of immigrants who are francophone’. According to Fréchette, the province’s immigration goal is dependent on its capacity to teach immigrants the language. She also said that accepting more people will make the housing problem worse. When asked if Quebec may lose power if its population grew smaller, Fréchette said that the province relies on Trudeau’s promise to keep Quebec’s political clout inside Canada.
A significant Quebec corporate organisation urged Legault to rethink his immigration goals on Tuesday. The Conseil du patronat du Québec also requested that Ottawa shorten the time it takes to process immigration applications and meet a government goal of having 4.4% of immigrants to Canada who are francophone. Denis Hamel, vice-president of the Conseil du patronat, said in a statement: ‘While all the other provinces will profit from (an increase in immigration), Quebec must give more consideration to this option to meet the employment deficit and limit the decrease in our demographic weight in Canada’.