Immigration: a multifaceted necessity

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Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier


Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier

On October 1, 2018, Québecers elected the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) as their government. A significant issue that contributed to the CAQ victory was its stance on immigration into Québec; a promised reduction in immigration and an insistence that newcomers integrate directly into Québec’s culture and labour force. In keeping with this policy, the newly-elected CAQ cancelled a backlog of 18,000 skilled worker applications.  The party also reduced the allowed number of immigrants from 52,000 to 40,000 for the year 2019. The basic policy of the CAQ of “fewer immigrants, better integration” became the law. There are several aspects and some very serious implications to this policy and related procedures.
First is Québec’s unique position on immigration issues. Normally, immigration is the concern and domain of the federal government, but in 1991, Canada signed an accord with Québec that gave that province control of immigration. So, Québec, unlike all other provinces and territories of Canada, can determine how many people and who may immigrate into the province. This, in turn, allowed the CAQ to
pander to nationalists’ and populists’ demands on immigration.
But there are several significant issues that this anti-immigration stance faces. Perhaps the biggest is the fertility rate, in other words, the average number of children born per woman in the province. To maintain the existing population level, the fertility rate should be 2.1. The current (2018) rate is 1.586. For comparison, in 1991 it was 1.653. So, to maintain its population level, Québec must rely on significant annual immigration as it has done in the past.
The need for immigrants also has an economic dimension. According to
the Conseil du patronat du Québec representing employers in the province, there are 120,000 unfilled jobs in Québec, ranging from professional and skilled workers to low-paying labour.  The situation is projected to get worst as Québec’s aging population increases. The province needs younger, capable workers if it is to maintain current standards of living; so, for the foreseeable future, immigration must be an essential component in maintaining Québec’s economy. Economists and demographers suggest Québec will need at least 60,000 immigrants per year for the next six or seven years just to maintain its present living standards.
Interestingly, since the CAQ came to power, immigration into Québec has been even slower than the lower levels set by the government. The effects are so obvious that the Québec government has instituted a $21-million plan to
subsidize foreign recruitment missions. Québec’s Exporters and Manu-
facturers Association has welcomed this change in CAQ immigration action, but points out that the government must do much more to help foreign workers settle
permanently in Québec.
Further, Bill 21 banning the wearing of religious symbols has not helped. Teachers and medical professionals will not move to Québec and those already in the province are looking to move elsewhere. The province’s future depends very much on a steady increase in population to support its aging citizens, and in the past, immigrants have provided this economic boost.
If Québec is to remain an attractive place for its inhabitants, the government must take a realistic approach to immigration.