Quebec sticks to plan to welcome 51,000 immigrants in a year

Quebec sticks to plan to welcome 51,000 immigrants in a year

Philip Authier
Montreal Gazette


QUEBEC — Dismissing the criticism of the opposition as a lot of hot air, Quebec’s immigration minister has announced plans to allow about 51,000 new arrivals into the province in 2017 and even more in the future.

And to ensure more of them learn the French they need to integrate well into society, Quebec is adding an additional $31 million to French language-training programs.

The dual announcements were made Thursday by Quebec’s immigration, diversity and inclusion minister Kathleen Weil.

Emerging after months of public consultations with community groups, labour and corporate interests and a host of experts, Weil said she believes her new immigration orientations have hit the right balance.

Not only do immigrants get the new start they want, Quebec gets much needed new labour which, as a result of reforms, is increasingly tailored to market needs.

She swatted off criticism from both the Coalition Avenir Québec and Parti Québécois opposition, which have raised ominous immigration scenarios.

Both have called for dramatic reductions in the numbers, saying Quebec is so poorly equipped to handle the influx that brain surgeons wind up driving cabs.

“Yes, it’s worrisome,” Weil said when asked about the CAQ and PQ’s vision. “And I think it’s irresponsible.

“It’s irresponsible if it’s based on hot air. They don’t have any statistics to support it. He (CAQ Leader François Legault) pulled that number (40,000 a year) out of a hat.

“I have done three consultations. Nobody ever asked that we lower the number. People just want to make sure you have a plan and you are going to invest in integration, you’re going to invest in French language courses and you are going to work to ensure these people have a job.”

The immigration targets are close to those of the last few years. The plan is to stabilize levels at 51,000 new arrivals for the next two years and then gradually raise them in the third year, 2019, to 52,500.

Of the total pool of immigrants, 30,000 — about six out of 10 — fall into the economic category meaning they are either already qualified workers or plan to invest in Quebec. Most will come from Africa and Asia.

The objective is to gradually increase the level of immigrants in the economic category to 63 per cent — it is now about 59 per cent — to respond to chronic employee shortages in many regions of Quebec.

A new job bank, in which immigrants will be able to match their skills to available work before they arrive, will be up and running in the new year, Weil said.

Quebec will also step up efforts to help immigrants learn French. Total government spending in that area will now be $168 million a year. Quebec wants 85 per cent of new qualified workers to be able to operate in French on arrival.

The opposition criticized the plan anyway.

“Mr. (Philippe) Couillard is opening the floodgates toward his 60,000 immigrants a year,” CAQ immigration critic Nathalie Roy said in reference to a number once floated by the premier.

PQ critic Carole Poirier said Weil’s targets are “a recipe for failure.”