Montreal

CAQ's plan to slash immigration levels threatens Quebec economy, business groups say

The Coalition Avenir Québec government needs to bring in more immigrants to avoid exacerbating the province's labour shortage and slowing the province's economy, business leaders warn.

Groups press for increase in quotas as hearings get underway at National Assembly

Business groups say the targets are way too low to satisfy the demands of Quebec's booming economy. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Business groups are warning the Quebec government it needs to bring in more immigrants to address the province's labour shortage and avoid slowing the economy.

As the Coalition Avenir Québec government holds hearings this week on its immigration plan for 2020-2022, industry representatives are urging the CAQ to revise its targets upward. 

"Our main message is we need more immigrants than what the government is expecting over the next three years," said Denis Hamel, vice-president of the Conseil du patronat du Québec, a lobby group for employers in the province.

The CAQ government intends to accept around 20 per cent fewer immigrants this year, or 40,000 instead of the nearly 52,000 accepted last year.

The government is planning to gradually increase that number by 2022, when it projects bringing in between 49,500 and 52,500 immigrants.

According to the employers lobby group, there are currently 120,000 unfilled jobs in Quebec, ranging from skilled manufacturing positions to low-paid work in the retail sector.

The shortage, moreover, is only projected to get worse due to the province's aging population.

"Many employers are struggling to keep their businesses alive because of a shortage of workers," Hamel said.

"When you add the figures, you need at least 60,000 immigrants per year for at least the next six or seven years."

Fewer immigrants for better integration, government says

Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette has said the government wants to make sure those who are coming to Quebec will be better integrated into the workforce.

The new system, the CAQ says, is designed to better respond to the needs of the labour market and ensure immigrants can speak French.

"Reducing immigration levels in 2019 is a transitional step toward refining the selection system and implementing an efficient and personalized approach to the francization and integration of immigrants," the government's plan says.

While business groups have welcomed efforts to streamline applications that meet labour market needs, many say the targets are way too low to satisfy the demands of a booming economy.

The association representing Quebec's manufacturers and exporters, for instance, said in a recent statement the current immigration thresholds "are insufficient to meet the needs of the manufacturing sector."

In a posting on its website ahead of this week's hearings in Quebec City, Quebec's federation of chambers of commerce (FCCQ) also warned the targets are so low that they would "contribute to significantly increasing the number of regional labour shortages."

The hearings run from Monday to Thursday at Quebec's National Assembly.

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