Quebec taking dwindling share of immigrants to Canada, according to new data

National Post

Ryan Tumilty National Post Jan 17, 2023  

OTTAWA – Quebec is taking a dwindling share of Canada’s new immigrants, and significantly less than its proportional national share, as it maintains tight caps on newcomers, even as the Trudeau government continues to open the floodgates to more immigration nationally.

According to government figures released to the National Post, Canada welcomed 437,000 immigrants in 2022, slightly over the Trudeau government’s target of 431,000. That number is set to continue to grow, with the government aiming to bring in more each year, reaching 500,000 immigrants in 2025.

The newcomers who arrived in Canada went to every province and territory and, in most cases, the number of immigrants a province welcomed closely aligned to its share of Canada’s population.

But Quebec brought in 68,820 people, roughly 15.7 per cent of the immigrants to Canada, despite the province representing nearly 23 per cent of Canada’s population.

By contrast, Ontario took 184,000 newcomers in 2022, 42 per cent of the total who came to Canada, even though Ontario represents 38 per cent of Canada’s population. And British Columbia welcomed more than 61,000 people, almost as many as Quebec did, despite B.C. having a population that is 3.5-million people fewer than Quebec.

Quebec controls the number of economic immigrants it takes each year and the province’s premier. François Legault, said in September that taking more newcomers would be a “bit suicidal” to Quebec’s culture and identity.

His immigration minister made clear the government won’t be boosting levels anytime soon.

“The federal government’s intention to significantly increase its immigration thresholds over the next few years is concerning. We reiterate that it is up to Quebec – and Quebec alone – to establish its thresholds for permanent immigration,” Minister Christine Fréchette’s office said in a statement, which the Post translated from French.

The minister said Quebec has to limit immigration to French speakers to protect the French language.

“Quebec, as a French-speaking nation, also has a duty to curb the decline of French on its territory and to ensure its protection. We have a responsibility to give all our newcomers the tools to thrive in French in Quebec.”

When asked about the gap, federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser’s office didn’t address that question directly. It did say that the Liberals continue to believe their plan is the right one for Canada.

“Newcomers play a crucial role in the future of our communities and our economy,” said press secretary Bahoz Dara Aziz “Our country must continue to grow our population if we’re going to meet the needs of the labour force, rebalance an aging population, continue to reunite families, and make good on our commitments to support some of the world’s most vulnerable people.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in December that Quebec could easily raise its immigration levels without damaging the province’s French language and should bring more people to Canada.

Véronique Proulx, president and CEO of Quebec Manufacturers and Exporters association said the province desperately needs those newcomers, because there are labour shortages everywhere.

She said they estimate $7 billion in manufacturing output that could have taken place last year was sidelined due to labour shortages.

“When you don’t have the workers you need, you’re going to shut down some production lines. You’re going to close your night shifts because you can’t find people,” she said.

Proulx said she has heard directly from firms that are holding back on expansions, or declining new businesses because they simply don’t have the people to do the work.

She said she understands the provincial government wants to protect French, but many of the unfilled jobs are in regions of the province where newcomers will have to learn quickly

“They’ll say very quickly these people will learn French because if they don’t, they won’t be able to function in society,” she said.

She said manufacturers recognize they need to invest in automation and upgrades to their facilities, but they need the government to work with tools like immigration to fill shortages.

“We really need the Quebec government to partner up with us to be able to find solutions that will help our sector grow.”