With 271,000 job vacancies, Quebec employers question immigration plans

“Unless you want to shrink your economy and are willing to drop some businesses…you have no other way but to increase the levels of integration”

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OTTAWA — Quebec business leaders say newly re-elected premier Francois Legault will have no choice but to accept more than 50,000 immigrants a year — a goal the premier says would be ” suicidal” for the French culture of the province.

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“Unless you want to reduce your economy and are ready to let go of certain companies and even certain regions (in Quebec), … you have no other way but to increase the levels of integration,” said declared Véronique Proulx, President and CEO of Québec. Manufacturers and Exporters.

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Proulx said his organization released a survey last year showing Quebec manufacturers left the equivalent of $18 billion on the table due to labor shortages.

“Why $18 billion? Because we refuse contracts, we let go of customers who have been with us for years, we reduce our operations. We are reducing night shifts and weekend shifts because we just can’t find the workers we need,” she explained.

The issue of immigration has been at the forefront of the latest spat between Ottawa and Quebec, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refusing to give the province more powers to decide who gets in, and Legault refusing to take no for an answer.

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Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec was re-elected on October 3 with a larger majority, promising to restrict immigration levels in order to protect Quebec society.

Legault himself said, a few days before the election, that welcoming more than 50,000 immigrants a year would be “a bit suicidal”. He made the comment after just apologizing for linking immigration to ‘extremists’ and ‘violence’ when explaining why the levels should remain the same.

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Federal Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, a Quebec MP whose family immigrated from Argentina, openly said he viewed the comments as hurtful, but said he was encouraged to hear Legault say in his victory speech that he would be “the prime minister of all Quebecers”.

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But the main point of contention remains between the CAQ and the business community on the number of immigrants.

Charles Milliard, CEO of the Federation of Quebec Chambers of Commerce, said some gaps in the labor market can be filled by bringing disabled workers or retirees back into the labor market, but that will never be enough to fill the shortage. massive labor force.

“Quebec cannot continue to have 271,000 vacancies right now,” he said.

Michel Leblanc, president of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, predicts that the Premier of Quebec will go back on his election promise.

“I think over the next few years this government will increase immigration levels. And why will they do this? Partly because there will be high demand from everywhere and also because with adequate funding we will succeed in integrating immigrants,” he said.

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Leblanc noted that the CAQ was elected on a promise four years ago to reduce the number of immigrants to 40,000 in Quebec. The CAQ now says it won’t go above 50,000. “So, in fact, they’ve changed (their position) in the last four years,” he said.

We refuse contracts, we let go of customers who have been with us for years, we reduce our operations

Business leaders are reassured that the allies of Legault’s former cabinet – Pierre Fitzgibbon (Economy and Innovation) and Eric Girard (Finance) – will likely be reappointed on October 20, when the Prime Minister presents his new cabinet. .

“They are allies, clearly,” Leblanc said. And I suspect they have the task of explaining to their colleagues the dynamics of wealth creation, business development, the need to have the workforce there when companies need it.

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Businesses can also count on the federal government, which is on their side on this issue.

Speaking to reporters last week, Trudeau referred to the severe labor shortage in Quebec and said “we know it will take more immigration, but that’s a conversation to have with Prime Minister Legault”. He also reiterated that Quebec has all the necessary tools to choose its immigrants.

Under the Canada-Quebec Accord, in place since 1991, Quebec assumes full responsibility for the selection of its economic immigrants while Ottawa still takes care of family reunification and refugees. But Legault now hopes to have full control over the immigration file.

Robert Asselin, senior vice-president of policy at the Business Council of Canada and a former adviser to Trudeau, thinks the federal government should not budge on this file.

“No G7 country would cede full responsibility for immigration to a federated state,” he said. “It’s an important part of a country’s sovereignty to control its immigration.”

“The Canada-Quebec Accord is a good agreement, a good framework. You don’t have to go any further.

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