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'We need more people': business groups shed light on labour shortage 'crisis'

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MONTREAL -

A coalition of business groups is sounding the alarm over a massive labour shortage provincewide.

"We are living in crisis. For real," said François Vincent, vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), Quebec division.

According to a recent survey of small to medium businesses in Quebec, three-fifths suggested refraining from starting a business in this climate.

There are currently 220,000 vacant positions across the province.

Karl Blackburn, CEO of the Quebec employer's council (CPQ), says immigration is one solution.

"That's why we propose more than 70,000 immigrants a year for the coming years," he said.

In that same survey, some 45 per cent of small and medium-sized businesses reported they've had to turn down sales or contracts because of a lack of workers.

The business groups point out that the labour shortage didn't start out with the pandemic, but it certainly made it worse.

"When the economy started back up again, the labour shortage came back as issue number one," said Vincent.

Many workers chose to take federal relief benefits -- and then change careers -- rather than return to work for low wages.

On the supply side, not only did some manufacturers close during the pandemic, they suddenly found themselves having to make different products than they were used to upon reopening.

"We’re on a shift with certain products. So, if you’re looking at construction products, looking to renovate your house, there are a lot of delays. So, there has been a shift in demand, and the supply chain hasn’t been able to adapt," said Veronique Proulx, CEO of the group representing manufacturers and exporters (MEQ).

Things are tough on the retail side, too, according to Jean-Guy Cote, director of the Quebec retail council (CQCD).

"We need more people, we need more people on the floor, we need more people in the back of stores," he said. "Soon it’s going to be Christmas time, so it’s very worrying for a lot of businesses."

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