Legault adamant about repatriating immigration, as Quebec-Ottawa clash looms
A new confrontation is emerging between Ottawa and Quebec over the issue of immigration control.
Premier Francois Legault is adamant that all immigration powers, traditionally shared between the two levels of government, be repatriated to Quebec.
He says it is a question of survival for the Quebec nation, not hesitating to raise the spectre of Louisiana and the gradual disappearance of the French language in Quebec if the status quo is maintained.
He said Sunday that he intends to demand a "strong mandate" from the population during the October 3 vote to give himself a real 'balance of power" with Ottawa when it comes to negotiating a possible repatriation of all immigration powers to Quebec, except for refugees.
Legault chose to close his CAQ (Coalition Avenir Quebec) party convention on Sunday with a speech replete with strong nationalist content delivered to more than a thousand activists gathered in Drummondville all weekend around the theme of Quebec pride.
The total control of immigration by the National Assembly is linked to the "very existence" of the Quebec people, he argued, recalling that the federal government has decision-making power for about half of the new arrivals, including those who arrive through the family reunification channel. It is estimated that half of them do not speak French, a threat to Quebec, he said.
The demand for repatriation of powers in this area is not a new request from Quebec, which has always hit a wall in the past.
However, Legault has made it a priority and says he is confident that he will succeed where others have failed before him. Quebecers can expect to hear a lot about immigration in the next election campaign, with pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the leaders of the opposition parties in the House of Commons to get involved.
"I'm confident we'll get these immigration powers," he said at a news conference afterwards, although he was coy about what would happen if he were to receive another flat refusal from the federal government.
He rejected the idea of a referendum on the subject.
Quebec receives about 50,000 immigrants a year.
"It's important that Quebecers understand that it's a question of survival for French Quebec," said Legault, who may have to use his pedagogical skills in the coming months to convince the population to support his views on the issue.
If nothing changes, he said, "it may become a matter of time before we become a Louisiana."
With regard to the Oct. 3 general election, the CAQ leader said that the population should be wary of "ideologies" from both the left and the right, alluding, without naming them, to Québec Solidaire (QS) and the Conservative Party of Quebec (PCQ).
In his speech, the Premier gave a very flattering account of his government's accomplishments, concluding that after four years of CAQ governance, Quebec was more prosperous and proud than ever.
"We have changed Quebec," he said, and apparently for the better.
On the economic front, he said that voters should trust experienced people to deal with the "unstable" climate that looms on the horizon in the next mandate.
He pledged to help people fight inflation and promised to make a concrete announcement to that effect, in hard cash, during the next election campaign.
But he did not breathe a word about the most serious economic problem of the day and the most urgent one, the labour shortage.
Nor did he enumerate the many problems of access to health care, with ever-growing waiting lists, both in emergency rooms, and getting surgery or on a family doctor's patient list.
But he said he has the "trump card" to solve the network's problems in a second term, in the person of Christian Dubé, his health minister, who recently announced his intention to run again. Dubé received a standing ovation from the CAQ party members.
Meanwhile, with four months to go before the election, the recruitment process for CAQ candidates in the next election is going well. There are already nearly a hundred ridings that know the name of their CAQ candidate, half of whom are currently women. There are still 29 candidates out of 125 to be identified.
-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 29, 2022.