Analysis | Immigration: the moment of truth for François Legault

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Analysis | Immigration&nbsp ;: the moment of truth for François Legault

François Legault has raised expectations for his ability to make Quebec more autonomous within Canada.

The contrast is striking. While François Legault worried in recent months about the “Louisianization” of Quebec and considered it “suicidal” to raise immigration thresholds, the federal government's decision to welcome half a million immigrants to the countrywide in 2025 doesn't seem to have shaken him much.

Already at 400,000, there was a problem, so at 500,000, even more […] People in Ottawa will have to understand that we have a challenge here and that we want to keep French for the long term. , he simply said.

Will the Prime Minister realize that his room for maneuver is more limited than he thought?

Either way, such a decision will have far-reaching consequences for Canadian political dynamics. Quebecers currently make up 22.6% of the country's population, compared to 23.7% in 2002. Over the past 20 years, their demographic weight has therefore fallen by 1.1 percentage points.

Not only will the decline continue, but it will accelerate to 2.7 percentage points over the next 20 years. Even before Ottawa unveiled its new immigration targets, Statistics Canada had already calculated that Quebec's place within Canada would decrease to 19.9% ​​in 2042, according to a medium growth scenario. .

To those who are worried about seeing the political weight of Quebec dwindling in the Canadian federation, François Legault replied that there were already safeguards and that it was enough to add more.

The Prime Minister mentions the number of seats Quebec enjoys in the House of Commons, but no constitutional provision guarantees it a minimum percentage of seats in the federal Parliament. According to the eminent law professor Benoît Pelletier, offering such a guarantee in Quebec would also require the adoption of a constitutional amendment.

Still, the rest of Canada has the desire to take this path. However, the more Quebec's demographic decline accelerates, the more the chances of seeing such a political will manifest in the country are likely to diminish.

Beyond representation in the Commons, the Prime Minister did not specify what other safeguards he would like to establish to ensure Quebec's place in Canada, but it is difficult to see what he could obtain.

Beyond the financial agreements he negotiated with his federal counterpart, François Legault has little to gain from this chapter since he came to power. The pandemic has certainly delayed many things, but that cannot be an excuse for much longer.

The priority for the next few years, as we understand, will be the repatriation of immigration powers, but we are still waiting to find out how the Quebec government intends to go about concretely to achieve its objective.

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Negotiating with Ottawa is never easy, but it may be downright impossible as the two capitals pursue opposing goals. What interest could the federal government have in giving more power to a province that wishes to thwart its plan and its vision?

François Legault says he is counting on the next federal election to make his point of view. However, two election campaigns have already taken place across Canada since the leader of the CAQ took power and the list of Quebec demands did not seem to move the federal parties much, neither the first nor the second time.

It must be said that Quebecers themselves did not seem to make it a priority, the majority of them voting for the Liberal Party of Canada, of which the leader of the CAQ had however warned that it was necessary to be wary.< /p>

It's not to mention that François Legault did not make many friends in Ottawa during the last Quebec elections, with his disparaging remarks in which he seemed to amalgamate violence and immigration.

With rhetorical blows, the CAQ raised expectations about its ability to make Quebec more autonomous within Canada. The issue of immigration now offers it the opportunity to show what it is really capable of.

Obviously, the opposition parties do not believe it. Everyone has their own solution: the Liberals want to increase the immigration thresholds to strengthen the demographic weight of Quebec, while the Parti Québécois wants to end it by achieving independence. Québec solidaire proposes to do both.

During the election campaign, François Legault pleaded that it was imperative to repatriate more powers in terms of immigration to ensure the survival of French, but it is perhaps the federal thresholds themselves that pose the problem.

The more the demographic weight of Quebec decreases, the more difficult it will be to achieve the advances which, precisely, would make it possible to counter this decline.

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