Quebec opposition party wants non-polarized debate on immigration

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With five months to go before the provincial elections, the debate on immigration has been revived.


The Parti Québécois (PQ) is opposed to employer groups’ demand to increase the current 50,000 immigrants per year to 80,000, or even 90,000.


The sovereigntist party is calling for a “serious” discussion based on “factual and scientific” data.


PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon was reacting to the Conseil du patronat and Manufacturiers et exportateurs du Québec’s (MEQ) calls for a considerable increase in the annual immigration threshold to fill the labour shortage.


In a Canadian Press interview on Sunday, the PQ leader argued that despite the constant increases in the number of immigrants admitted to Quebec over the past 30 years, the demand for workers has nevertheless not subsided. The so-called solution has not solved the problem, he said.


What’s more, the considerable increase claimed would only increase the demand for services such as family doctors, places in public daycares (CPEs) and housing, said immigration lawyer Stéphane Handfield, who is the PQ candidate in Masson in the October elections.


“Are we doing new immigrants a favour if we don’t take these issues into account in our reception and integration capacity?” said Handfield.


SCIENCE OVER IDEOLOGY


“We want a debate based on science and not on ideology or false premises,” said St-Pierre Plamondon.


He called for caution to avoid any slippage in this debate, which has had unfortunate precedents.


“The simple fact of asking questions about raising the immigration threshold leads to innuendo about the intolerance of those who ask the questions, it creates a climate that is not serene,” said St-Pierre Plamondon.


“Historically, there has been a lot of ideology and stigmatization” on the issue of immigration, and this ends up harming “the right of Quebec to take its own direction,” said the PQ leader.


St-Pierre Plamondon criticized the suggestion that as soon as Quebec does not align itself with the Canadian federal model of admitting more and more newcomers, it is accused of being racist, even though immigration is partly within its jurisdiction.


QUESTIONS TO ASK


The PQ leader has many questions.


For example, does welcoming more immigrants create more wealth? Does it really increase the gross domestic product per capita?


“We want to study the macro-economy objectively,” he said, demanding more answers.


Handfield also wants to know what the impact of increased immigration is on the linguistic dynamics? What is the impact on the housing crisis? Does it lower the average age of the workforce?


“I’ve never seen a study that says here’s why we need 30,000 or 40,000 immigrants, or here’s how we manage to justify that number,” said Handfield. “How much does it cost to integrate each immigrant? We always hear the same thing: 80,000 immigrants per year and all the problems will be solved.”


Currently, there are no less than 240,000 vacant positions to be filled in Quebec, according to data from the Institut du Québec.


Employers’ associations are calling for a catch-up in immigration to make up for the labour scarcity and the delay caused by the closing of borders during the pandemic.


Their consensus is 80,000 per year, but MEQ president Véronique Proulx said the organization would be willing to go to 90,000, almost double the current threshold of 50,000 per year.


The Legault government has not given its official answer.


St-Pierre Plamondon reiterates that he is committed to setting the acceptable threshold for his party by the election campaign.


— This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 8, 2022. 

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