Canada Quebec's immigration numbers drop while rest of Canada is on the rise

15:00  20 february  2020
15:00  20 february  2020 Source:   montrealgazette.com

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Simon Jolin-Barrette wearing a suit and tie © Jacques Boissinot

Quebec Premier François Legault fulfilled his promise to cut the number of immigrants to the province by 20 per cent in 2019, in stark contrast to the rest of Canada. Included in the reductions were workers from specialized fields like nursing, computer engineering and computer programming — positions the province is struggling to fill in the midst of a labour shortage.

The number of immigrants admitted to Quebec dropped from 51,125 in 2018 to 40,545 last year, a decrease of 20.7 per cent.

Ontario, meanwhile, saw the number of newcomers rise by 11.5 per cent, to 153,340. Manitoba’s immigration rate rose by 24 per cent, New Brunswick’s by 30 per cent and Nova Scotia’s by 33 per cent.

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The majority of Quebec’s cuts were felt in Montreal, which saw nearly 9,000 fewer immigrants flow into the census metropolitan region last year. By comparison, Toronto welcomed 117,720 immigrants, an increase of more than 11,000 over 2018.

Even Vancouver has surpassed Montreal for number of immigrants admitted, said Jack Jedwab, president of the Canadian Institute for Identities and Migration, who compiled the figures using data from the federal Immigration Department.

“We are definitely diminishing our demographic weight within the federation by reducing ourselves to 12 per cent of the overall immigration rate for Canada, when we have 22 per cent of the population,” Jedwab said.

Immigration figures for smaller municipalities in Quebec remained mostly stable, and low. Shawinigan saw 25 immigrants in 2019; Rouyn-Noranda and Sept-Îles — with populations of 42,000 and 28,500, respectively — had 40 immigrants join their ranks. Baie-Comeau and Thetford Mines saw 10 newcomers each.

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Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec government maintains the province needs to reduce immigration because it was doing a poor job of integrating newcomers or choosing skilled workers who best fulfil its labour needs. Legault has pledged to bring the numbers back up to 52,500 in 2022.

The reduction comes as Quebec grapples with the worst labour shortage in Canada. A rapidly aging population and economic boom have caused the number of jobs sitting vacant to double in the last three years, to 137,000.

The analysis shows a significant drop in the number of immigrants with degrees in specialized professions that the province is struggling to fill. In 2018, Quebec admitted 2,120 registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses. In 2019, that figure dropped to 1,440, a decrease of 32 per cent.

Unionized nurses in Quebec have been fighting forced overtime and have organized strikes to protest being forced to work long hours, and are calling for more nurses in order to ease the pressure.

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Similar reductions were seen in 2019 in the number of information systems analysts and consultants (36 per cent), computer engineers (not including software engineers and designers; 33 per cent), computer programmers and interactive media developers (45 per cent), electrical and electronics engineers (41 per cent), university professors and lecturers (17 per cent) and civil engineers (28 per cent).

“I think the principal objective of all of this was to meet the objective of the cuts, so the government could say it was living up to its commitments,” Jedwab said.

The reductions were relatively even across the three categories of immigrants admitted to Canada: economic, family sponsorship and refugees. In the family class, there were increases in the number of parents and grandparents admitted, but a proportional decrease in the number of sponsored children, spouses or partners who gained entry.

“As we committed to doing, in 2019 we lowered the immigration thresholds by 23 per cent in all categories. We met our admission targets,” said Élisabeth Gosselin, press attaché for Immigration, Francization and Integration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette. “Our government … has made the success of immigration a priority.”

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Because of delays between the federal and provincial selection processes, many of the admission selections for 2019 were made before the CAQ came into power, Gosselin said. Meanwhile, the CAQ has invested in improving French lessons and facilitating integration for immigrants, launched the Arrima system designed to improve the selection process based on Quebec’s labour needs, and increased the immigration ministry’s budget by 42 per cent, Gosselin said.

Quebec’s largest employers’ group, the Conseil du patronat du Québec, released a statement in reaction to government figures that show the number of professions in Quebec experiencing deficits surged from 25 in 2018 to 165 last year.

“We can see the immediate effect of an overly strict immigration policy,” Conseil president Yves-Thomas Dorval said. “The government needs to rectify this quickly, because for a long time now our businesses have been suffering from the labour shortage effects, and are asking the government to help them by raising the immigration thresholds.”

Quebec’s drop in permanent immigrants was offset by the largest increase among any province in the number of temporary workers in 2019. The province admitted 5,635 more temporary workers than it did the year before — a 32 per cent jump. The majority of temporary workers are employed in the agricultural and agri-food business industries, but they are also being used in hard-hit fields like food services, hotels and manufacturing. The use of temporary workers has been criticized as a short-term fix that fails to address the underlying demographic issues, and leaves vulnerable foreign workers who are desperate for employment open to abuse.

“If you say your main problem is an integration problem, I’m not clear how the answer to an integration challenge is bringing in more temporary workers,” Jedwab said. “If anything, you want to bring in more permanent residents, so that you can integrate them.”



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