Under a new plan revealed Monday by provincial Immigration Minister Jean Boulet, Quebec aims to increase the settlement of immigrants in the francophone province’s outer areas.
“There are indisputable benefits for immigrants in the regions, such as friendly, close-knit communities, jobs, a high quality of life, and more,” said Boulet in a statement in French.
“By doubling down on our efforts and collaborating on common goals with all stakeholders in the areas, we will be able to achieve those goals more swiftly and easily.” We are improving Quebec’s economy by creating the most favourable conditions for immigration in the regions.”
The year before, 50,280 new permanent immigrants to Canada landed in Quebec, nearly double the 25,225 who arrived in 2020 and over 24 percent more than the 40,565 who arrived in 2019, the last full year before the Covid-19 pandemic. Considering an increase in immigration to the province, most regions are experiencing little benefit from these newcomers because the vast majority want to live in the big cities of Montreal and Quebec.
In 2021, Montreal will have absorbed 80.3 percent of the province’s new permanent population. Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Trois Rivières, and the Gatineau area directly across the border from Ottawa accounted for an additional 13.7% of all new permanent residents to Quebec that year. That implies that five cities accounted for 47,240 new permanent residents to the province last year, accounting for about 93.9 percent of all immigration to Quebec in 2021. Last year, the rest of the province gained only 3,040 new permanent residents, or roughly 6% of the total.
The strategy revealed Monday by Quebec’s immigration department, the Ministre de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI), aims to promote the benefits of these regions to immigrants, foster the development of non-profit groups offering settlement services to them in those regions, and put in place a process to evaluate the strategy’s efficiency.
Quebec hopes to increase the number of immigrants seeking permanent residence as well as the number of temporary residents, notably those arriving under the International Mobility Program (IMP) for work outside of Greater Montreal. The government also wants to expand the number of slots available outside of Montreal through its Collective Sponsorship programme, and it is considering a regional immigration pilot programme similar to the phenomenally successful Atlantic Immigration Pilot.
By collecting data on those immigrants who leave Greater Montreal to reside in the regions, the province hopes to have a better understanding of what drew them there and, as a result, uncover possibilities to further market the region. Quebec is also proposing to expand its credential recognition programmes in distant regions to assist immigrants to settle in and finding work more swiftly. It is currently one of the provinces severely hit by labour shortages, and many businesses are struggling to find qualified people to fill open positions.
Five months before the next Quebec provincial election, four business organisations pressed political parties this week to increase immigration by up to 90%. The Manufacturiers et Exportateurs du Québec (MEQ) manufacturing and exporting industry association, the Conseil du Patronat du Québec (CPQ) employers’ group, the Fédération des Chambres de Commerce du Québec (FCCQ) chamber of commerce association, and the Fédération Canadienne de l’Entreprise Indépendante (FCEI) independent business association need more immigration to address the province’s severe worker shortages.
“We recognise that labour shortages cannot be fixed overnight, and it will take a succession of solutions working in unison to mitigate the impact of a labour shortfall,” said MEQ president Véronique Proulx.
“With a Quebec provincial election on or before October 3rd, it is critical that we teach political parties about the need to implement sound policies to enlarge the pool of employees and sustain Quebec’s competitive advantage.”
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