Couillard bemoans lack of qualified labour in Quebec
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard bemoaned the dearth of qualified labour in the province Tuesday, saying the problem is more glaring than any dangers posed by possible changes to trade deals.
Couillard estimates more than 1.3 million jobs will need to be filled in Quebec by 2024.
The premier was speaking in Quebec City at a forum on diversity and discrimination that replaced previously scrapped consultations on systemic racism.
Quebec government statistics indicate the province's active population has been diminishing by 5,000 workers a year since 2014.
That translates into companies being forced to scale back on investments and turning down contracts.
Couillard said many Quebec businesses are crying out for workers.
``I would place this issue even above what's currently at stake in the trade agreements,'' he said.
The premier said it is important to dispel the myth that immigrants pose a threat to the livelihoods of other people.
``No, they don't steal jobs,'' he said. ``On the contrary, they will help us to keep jobs for everyone by preventing companies from reducing their activities, from closing or even moving.''
Immigration Minister David Heurtel estimates more than 20 per cent of the labour shortage is going to have to be filled by immigrants.
``I represent the Saint-Michel area (in Montreal),'' he said. ``This is one of the most diverse ridings, if not the most diverse riding, in Quebec. And when people talk to me, from all different communities, their No. 1 issue is jobs, it's employment.
``And we need to talk about employment not only to face this challenge we have of workforce shortages but also as the vehicle to better integrate.
``Over the next few years, we are going to need immigration to meet this challenge (the labour shortage).''