The ‘Politicized’ Immigration Debate could Harm Employment in Canada

Parliament_building of Quebec Canada

The recent dispute between Quebec province and the capital, Ottawa over immigration is driven by political motives rather than the reality of the labour market, says the head of the employers’ association – the Canadian Globe and Mail writes.

“In some ways, it’s deplorable,” said Karl Blackburn, president and CEO of the Quebec Employers Council (Conseil du Patronat du Québec – CPQ).
His remarks coincide with Quebec Premier François Legault’s warning to conduct a “referendum” on immigration if the federal government fails to promptly address the increasing influx of temporary immigrants, such as foreign workers, international students, and refugee claimants.

“The majority of Quebecers think that 560 000 temporary immigrants is too much,” Legault said to last week. “It’s hurting our health-care system. We don’t have enough teachers, we don’t have enough housing.”

Provincial Immigration Minister Christine Fréchette stated that the province is requesting enhanced French-language criteria in federal immigration programs and a decrease in the influx of asylum seekers and temporary workers.

François Legault (in middle) and Justin Trudeau in the innaguration of Réseau Express Métropolitain in 2023
François Legault and Justin Trudeau in the inauguration of Réseau Express Métropolitain in 2023  (Source:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined the province’s request for complete authority over immigration, which is currently a joint responsibility. However, Legault stated in March that Trudeau had demonstrated willingness to consider some of the province’s requests and they both agreed on the necessity of decreasing temporary immigrants.
Blackburn disagrees with the notion that there is an excessive number of temporary workers, stating that they are actively contributing to the production of goods and services in our businesses. He stated that their numbers correspond to the demands of the labor market and an aging population.

Asylum Claims on the Rise in Quebec

Blacburn also stated, he supports the

Legault government’s call to reduce the number of asylum seekers in the province because Quebec has received a disproportionate share in recent years.

But he denounced the federal government’s “improvised” decision to suddenly reimpose visas on some Mexican nationals earlier this year, a measure Quebec had pushed for as a way of reducing asylum claims. The situation is already directly impacting businesses by limiting their capacity to hire workers. Any subsequent measures to reduce the number of temporary workers will further hurt Quebec’s economy as well as consumers who will no longer have access to the same goods and services, Blackburn added.

Politicians are unfairly blaming immigrants for shortages of housing, daycare spaces and teachers, when the real problem is government failure to invest in those areas, he added.

The Long-Running Migration Debate Between Quebec and Ottawa

Earlier this year, the premier wrote to Trudeau about the influx of asylum seekers entering Quebec, which has welcomed more than 65 000 of the 144 000 would-be refugees who came to Canada last year.

Federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller said last week that no country would ever give up total control over immigration. But he said he and his provincial counterpart are having good discussions and agree on many matters, including limiting visas to Mexicans and protecting French. While Legault has blamed the federal government for the “exploding” number of newcomers, the director of a research institute and co-author of a recent study on temporary immigrants says both Ottawa and Quebec have brought in measures in recent years to facilitate their arrival. But if you wan to reduce the number of temporary workers you have to invest in technology.

“As we know, Quebec lags behind in terms of business robotization and automation. By investing in technologies, businesses will be able to increase their productivity while relying less on temporary workers,” Fréchette said in a statement Monday. Both Braham and Blackburn point out that the high number of temporary workers in Quebec is also a result of the province’s decision to cap the number of new permanent residents it accepts each year to around 50 000, creating a bottleneck of people awaiting permanent status.


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