Business groups to Quebec gov't: We need more immigrants

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Public consultations are underway on Quebec's immigration policy at the National Assembly after the CAQ government reduced immigration levels in 2019, and is dealing with a labour shortage.

Francois Legault's CAQ government reduced immigration levels 20 per cent representing about 40,000 people.

In June, however, immigration minister Simon Jolin-Barrette announced a gradual increase and accept about 52,000 people each year by 2022.

Business lobby groups including the Federation des chambres de commerce du Quebec and the Conseil du Patronat du Quebec have said Quebec needs at least 60,000 immigrants annually to deal with the province's labour shortage and avoid hurting the province's economy.

"Our main message is we need more immigrants than what the government is expecting over the next three years," said Denis Hamel, vice-president of the Conseil du patronat du Quebec.

The two groups will present at the hearings Wednesday.

The business groups claim there are currently 120,000 unfilled jobs in Quebec ranging from skilled manufacturing positions to low-wage retail jobs. They argue Quebec's immigration policy doesn't match its labour market needs, which was the original intent of the CAQ's immigration reform.

The federation adds that French-language requirements for immigrants are counterproductive, and are preventing strong candidates from being chosen.

The business lobby groups want the government to ease language requirements and invest more in teaching newcomers French.

The new system, the CAQ says, is designed to better respond to the needs of the labour market and ensure immigrants can speak French.

 "Reducing immigration levels in 2019 is a transitional step toward refining the selection system and implementing an efficient and personalized approach to the francization and integration of immigrants," the government's plan says.

The consultations continue until Thursday.