Q&A: Pierre Moreau talks scrapping CÉGEPs, immigration issues

Liberal leadership candidate Pierre Moreau talks to CBC Montreal's Daybreak about the possibility of scrapping CEGEPs and rejigging the language requirements for immigrants.
Quebec Liberal Party leadership candidate Pierre Moreau hopes to reboot the province's CÉGEP and immigration systems. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)

Quebec Liberal Party leadership candidate Pierre Moreau spoke to CBC Montreal's Daybreak ahead of the English-language debates on Jan. 26.  

Question: No more sacred cows?  

 Moreau: No more sacred cows.  

We want the Quebec Liberal Party to become and to be what it was in [the past] — a place where you have debates on major issues of our society. And, if you want to have major issue discussions, you have to raise the proper questions, to address the proper questions, in order to have the good answer.  

The two ideas I put on the table at the last debate last Sunday [were] the immigration system that we've got here and the CÉGEP system.  

Q: Let's start with the last one first: CÉGEPs. Do you really think that maybe we should scrap the entire CÉGEP system?  

Moreau: Well, we have to ask questions about the system itself because we have a 2012 study revealing that Quebec lags in the percentage of students who graduate with a degree in higher education. At the same time, we're the only province in Canada with a system like we have.  

We're, as a matter of fact, four points behind Ontario and 2.5 points behind the Canadian average. So there's somethings that we have to ask questions about. The 21st century is the century of knowledge and I think that graduation is the key issue.  

Q: Why isn't the CÉGEP system helping us with that very question?  

Moreau: We have to ask the question and we have to have a study and raise the issue. The last time we asked questions about CÉGEPs was, according to the president of the Fédération des CÉGEPs, in 2003. That's 10 years ago. And yet, this year, we're lagging behind the rest of Canada as far as graduation is concerned at the university level. CÉGEPs are supposed to prepare our students for the universities. We have to ask the question.  

Q: Let's talk about your views on Quebec's selection process for immigrants. You're thinking about some changes having to do with language and the way we score language in terms of attracting immigrants. Can you just explain that?  

Moreau: The best way to have a good integration of people who are coming from abroad is to make sure that they could get a good job here in Quebec. There has to be a link between the idea of asking people to come here and to make sure that they will be active in the workforce in this province.  

So the best way to do it, is to make sure that we have [well-educated] people that are responding to what are our needs as the workforce are concerned. And then, if they are courageous enough to leave their country of origin and to come here, I think they will be courageous enough to learn French once they are here. So the rating system has to be reviewed, first.  

Q: So if they don't have French coming in, it's not as big a deal as it is now?  

Moreau: No, because if you have a job here in Montreal, it will be possible for you to learn French once you are here or everywhere else in Quebec.  

Q: That's not going to make you very popular with the nationalists.  

Moreau: The idea is not to be popular amongst nationalists. The idea to make sure that we have a good immigration system, that the integration is at the best level.  

You know, we're spending $300 million a year, out of it $280 million comes from the federal-provincial agreement, maybe if the part of Quebec is increased, we will be able to ask these people to learn French once they are here and they will be part of the workforce. That's what we want and that's the reason we are working on immigration. It's because we have jobs here that need immigration to be fulfilled.  

Q: [Students] are calling into question whether universities really are in dire straits in terms of funding and why they've been transfering so much money from their operating budgets into their real estate development budgets. Do you believe the universities, that they are in as big a problem financially as they say they are?  

Moreau: Well, you have to travel across Canada just to make sure that you have the proper answer to that question. There's no question in my mind that there's a problem with the funding of our universities here in Quebec. Go to B.C., go to Ontario, and you'll see what they are doing there. At the same time, I think that universities have to be open and transparent on the way they are spending the funds they've got.  

Q: And they haven't really been that open or transparent, have they?  

Moreau: Well, you know what, I think that now they are more and more open to open the books and to make sure that people realize what the real situation is. They should be open to this idea.  

But at the same time, we have to realize that if we want to get good diplomas, because we are in competition with the world, a student from the Université de Montréal is not competing against a student from Université Laval. He's competing against the world and the best university of the world. That's the reason why we want to have world-class diplomas in our universities and this, in part, is the reason why we have to get good funding for our universities.