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Analysis | What will be the effect Quebec and English Canada's debates on immigration? /></p>
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<p class=The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, with the Prime Minister of Quebec, François Legault, in November 2023< /p>

  • Hugo Lavallée (View profile)Hugo Lavallée

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The speed with which the perception of immigration is changing in English Canada is remarkable. While the federal government's decision to increase permanent admissions from 405,000 in 2021 to 500,000 in 2025 had barely raised eyebrows a year ago, we can no longer count the articles, columns and editorials written on the subject in recent weeks.

In Quebec, debating immigration is nothing new, but the paradigm shift taking place in the country could also have consequences.

Paul St-Pierre Plamondon has been keen to point out, in recent days, that he was among the first to establish a link between rising immigration thresholds and the housing crisis. During the 2022 leaders' debate, he took his counterparts to task, accusing them of not taking the housing issue into account when establishing their reception targets. He also expressed doubts that immigration was a lasting solution to the labor shortage.

If the PQ accuses the CAQ of being caught up on the issue, the debates currently underway in English Canada have also provided arguments to François Legault.

In spring 2021, the Prime Minister raised an outcry by declaring, before the members of the Employers' Council, that it was necessary to favor immigrants likely to enhance collective wealth.

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Every time I bring in an immigrant who earns less than $56,000, I make my problem worse. Every time I bring back an immigrant who earns more than 56,000, I improve my situation, he said, arousing the disapproval of the president of the organization.

However, economists now seem to be adopting a similar argument. We mainly retained from the most recent study by the National Bank on the subject the notion of “demographic trap”, but the authors of the document also deal with the standard of living, which is stagnating in the country, while it continues to decline. 'increase in the United States.

Our policymakers must not just target housing supply, but recognize that beyond a certain number, population growth is an obstacle to our economic well-being. The fact that real GDP per capita has been at a standstill for six years is a good example, write economists Stéfane Marion and Alexandra Ducharme.

In the eyes of many commentators in English Canada, the Trudeau government has bet everything on population growth, failing to have a real strategy to increase the productivity of the economy. In short, we are getting closer to the argument of the Quebec Prime Minister, even if the way of saying it is more delicate.

While Paul St-Pierre Plamondon led the charge against the federal government, François Legault wrote to his counterpart Justin Trudeau on Thursday to reiterate his concerns, expressed many times, about asylum seekers. The Quebec Prime Minister clearly does not want to be outdone by his adversaries.

If the issue of immigration may have proven politically profitable for the CAQ in the past, things could have changed. The situation has changed radically since the last elections. After asserting during the campaign that it would be suicidal to increase the immigration thresholds, the government has since chosen to increase its thresholds by excluding from its count foreign students who obtain their diploma here, in French. The objective is to ensure the vitality of the language, but the impact on housing is not diminished.

Above all, while the debate at the time focused on permanent immigration thresholds, it is now temporary immigration that is attracting attention. According to Statistics Canada, there are now more than half a million temporary residents on Quebec territory, but the new immigration plan presented by the CAQ last fall would only provide for a slight tightening of eligibility conditions. for those who want to come work or study in Quebec.

While it is true that certain immigration programs fall exclusively under federal jurisdiction, both Québec solidaire and the Parti Québécois criticize the Legault government for turning a blind eye to the phenomenal growth in temporary immigration. Beyond the rhetoric, the CAQ will have to defend its record.

The changing context could also force the other parties to review their approach. If no Quebec party has ever endorsed the significant increases in thresholds recommended by the Trudeau government, differences of partisan views have fueled many debates in recent years.

In 2022, the Liberal Party of Quebec proposed an annual target of 70,000 permanent admissions, Québec solidaire, a range of 60,000 to 80,000, and the Parti Québécois, a reduction in the target to 35,000. However, we did not have entitled to such precise figures on temporary residents. However, the hundreds of thousands of people welcomed in one or other of these categories make these target divergences appear to be very relative.

Already, the vitality of the debate that has begun in English Canada is leading to repositioning on the federal scene. Conservative Pierre Poilievre is now hinting at a reduction in admissions even as Justin Trudeau's Liberals are considering some tightening (New window).

In Quebec, where we are used to debating immigration, it would be surprising to see major reversals. The rapid evolution of the situation will still force each party to clarify its approach, or even to reconsider certain of its proposals.

The current debate across the country will give resonance and legitimacy to certain arguments to the detriment of others, which could also lead to a change in dynamics both in the National Assembly and within the population. This is without taking into account that the decisions of the federal government will inevitably have repercussions for the Quebec government.

  • Hugo Lavallée (View profile)Hugo LavalléeFollow

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