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Parti Quebecois calling for freeze on temporary immigration in the province

Parti Quebecois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon speaks at the opening of a Parti Quebecois national council meeting, Saturday, April 13, 2024 in Drummondville, Quebec. (Jacques Boissinot, The Canadian Press) Parti Quebecois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon speaks at the opening of a Parti Quebecois national council meeting, Saturday, April 13, 2024 in Drummondville, Quebec. (Jacques Boissinot, The Canadian Press)

The Parti Québécois (PQ) is asking the CAQ government to freeze temporary immigration for this year in the categories it controls.

The cap will have consequences for businesses that require more labour than last year, but according to PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, it is necessary because of the housing crisis.

He detailed his request Saturday morning in Drummondville at the start of his party's national council, which is focussing specifically on housing.

Under an agreement dating from 1991, Quebec controls the volume of entry of its future permanent residents, economic immigrants (66 per cent of immigration in 2022), as well as their integration and francization. The federal government deals with refugees, family reunification and issues related to citizenship.

"I understand that in certain cases, if we say that we are freezing, there are consequences in certain cases," said St-Pierre Plamondon. "But if we have 44 per cent more people on the street who do not have a roof over their heads, then if we are no longer able to afford housing and that impoverishes the vast majority of households, we will have to do something. We can't just sit idly by, and, unfortunately, that's what the CAQ is doing."

As of March 31, Quebec welcomed a total of 560,000 non-permanent residents. Of this number, there were 383,441 permit holders with their family members, as well as 176,733 asylum seekers -- which represents 46 per cent of the total asylum seekers in the country and which puts a lot of pressure on service delivery.

45,000 housing units

In its set of proposals, the PQ would commit, if it takes power, to financing the construction of a minimum of 45,000 off-market housing units over five years, including 10,000 for students in cities where there are universities and CEGEPs.

However, the solution is not costed. Party members will debate and potentially adopt the motion.

The PQ also wants to ban Airbnb-type rentals in cities where the vacancy rate is less than 3 per cent, with the exception of resort areas.

If it forms the government in 2026, St-Pierre Plamondon's party also is committing to offering financial incentives to businesses to encourage the conversion of vacant office spaces into housing.

The PQ also proposes setting up a national catalogue of pre-approved building plans to speed up construction.

St-Pierre Plamondon's PQ is ahead in voting intentions, according to polls, and its housing plan was expected, given the housing crisis currently raging.

In its proposal book, the PQ wrote that in 2023, in nearly three-quarters of the 71 municipalities with more than 10,000 inhabitants in Quebec, the vacancy rate was one per cent, while the market is considered balanced when it is around three per cent.

As luck would have it, on Friday, Justin Trudeau's federal government also unveiled its plan to resolve the housing crisis.

The CAQ government has been harshly criticized for its management of the housing crisis.

Premier François Legault, for his part, attributed part of the blame to the federal government, for having admitted no less than 560,000 temporary immigrants to Quebec, which caused unsustainable pressure on the real estate market and public services.

Again this week, Legault argued that his government has invested $6.3 billion in housing construction.

In 2022, the CAQ government established the PHAQ, Quebec Affordable Housing Program, which the PQ argues has not lived up to its objective of shortening construction deadlines.

It only made it possible to launch 324 units out of the 1,700 approved during the first call for tenders and none of them had yet been completed in March 2024, says the PQ.

Last December, Housing Minister France-Élaine Duranceau announced the construction of 1,000 additional affordable housing units as part of the PHAQ.

In its budget last year, the CAQ government announced an investment of $650 million to increase and maintain the stock of social and affordable housing.

A bone of contention

Immigration is a bone of contention between the federal government and Quebec.

The demand for full immigration powers for Quebec has been part of the CAQ's nationalist program since 2015, but the party has never succeeded in winning its case.

Legault once again threatened a referendum on this issue recently in the event of negotiations failure with Ottawa.

Since the 1991 agreement, Quebec can receive a percentage of total immigrants arriving in Canada that is equivalent to the proportion of its population within the federation. Currently, the demographic weight of Quebec is approximately 22.3 per cent of the Canadian population.

Trudeau had already said that Quebec had the "full capacity" to welcome 112,000 immigrants per year, therefore a little more than 22 per cent of the target of 500,000 permanent immigrants that his government wants to welcome per year by 2025.

For its part, the Legault government affirms that Quebec's reception capacity is exceeded and that the province can no longer provide public services to new arrivals, whether in terms of francization or schooling, social assistance, legal assistance, or health services, in addition to the housing crisis.

Faced with the influx of new arrivals, Quebec is also demanding $1 billion from the federal government for expenses incurred in welcoming asylum seekers since 2021.

Ottawa has only approved $155 million of the bill.

Legault met with Trudeau in March to discuss immigration and Ottawa must return with a solution by June.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on April 13, 2024. Top Stories

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