Wednesday, August 31, 2011


The Montreal Gazette has it it right. The plan proposed by this Quebec politician is the type of misplaced nationalism that has contributed to the steady decline of Quebec in Canada. Mr. Legault needs to realize that, rather than forcing people to speak French and implement policies that drive business away, he needs to talk about the complete failure of Quebec's immigration that results in the use of the program as a gateway to the rest of Canada: many immigrants under the Quebec program land in the province and leave immediately for Ontario and the West, they have no interest in living in a province with high taxes and a "language police".

The Gazette's View: François Legault’s immigration plan needs some scrutiny

The Gazette's View: François Legault’s immigration plan needs some scrutiny

Montreal GazetteAugust 30, 2011

MONTREAL - François Legault, who stands a good chance of becoming Quebec’s next premier if he manages to organize a functional political party before too much longer, got it right this week when he said that integration of immigrants into Quebec society would be a priority should he come to head a government.

What is debatable is his suggestion that to properly effect improvements in this area, a sharp reduction in the number of immigrants that Quebec takes in is advisable.

As it is, Quebec has the greatest need of any Canadian province for an influx of immigrants to compensate for the aging of its current population.

Yet it is doing the poorest job of any jurisdiction in the country in integrating immigrants into its workforce.

The Institut de la statistique du Québec forecasts that beginning just two years from now, Quebec will experience a decline in its working-age population – those age 15 to 64 – and that by 2016 the number of workers per retired person will fall to 3.7. That’s down from the current 4.5, which itself is half the ratio 40 years ago. By 2026 it is expected to be down to 2.6 workers for every retiree.

So Quebec clearly needs not just immigrants, but immigrants with jobs.

Yet the unemployment rate among immigrants in Quebec is not only twice that of the overall provincial population, as Legault noted in his policy statement, but also roughly twice that of immigrants in Canada as a whole.

To meet the challenge of alleviating this deplorable situation, Legault proposes on the one hand to double to $125 million a year the budget for facilitating the employment of immigrants and their integration into Quebec society, something he rightly identifies as being crucial to the future of French in the province.

On the other, he advocates that for a two-year period the number of immigrants Quebec takes in be reduced to 45,000 from the present 54,000, something he maintains will enable the government to better get its integration programs up to scratch.

There may be sound reason for cutting immigrant numbers for a period – the governing Liberals also propose an interim reduction, to 50,000 a year – but there is also room for suspicion that Legault’s further reduction is less a practical proposition than pandering to xenophobic elements in Quebec society that view immigrants with apprehension, if not outright hostility. Similarly, a shortage of funding for integration programs is not necessarily the main problem.

The need to reduce immigrant numbers is challenged by no less than Conrad Ouellon, president of the Conseil supérieur de la langue française, as well as the Montreal Board of Trade, which advocates an increase to 65,000 in the annual intake. Yves-Thomas Dorval of the Conseil du patronat suggests that the key to integration is better recognition of the foreign experience and diplomas that immigrants bring with them, as well as better co-ordination of selection with the needs of the province’s job market.

Legault might have helped his credibility had he also cited one of the glaring problems with immigrant integration today, which is the deplorable employment record of Quebec’s public institutions, both municipal and provincial. While these should be in the vanguard of integrating newcomers, the number of ethnic and visible-minority people they employ lags far behind those groups’ percentage of the population.

It is encouraging to see that Legault recognizes the importance of the problem, but his proposed solutions need close scrutiny and clearer explanation than he has offered so far.

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