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Trudeau says no to giving full immigration powers to Quebec

Photo: Adil Boukind Le Devoir Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau briefly spoke to the media after his meeting with François Legault on Friday in Montreal.

Francois Carabin

8:05 p.m.

  • Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refuses across the board to entrust all immigration powers to Quebec, as François Legault demanded on Thursday.

The liberal elected official left a “productive” meeting with his counterpart without much news to announce on Friday. Asked about the request addressed to him the day before by Mr. Legault, he did not beat around the bush: “No, we are not going to give more powers in immigration. »

“Quebec already has more powers in immigration than any other province – because it is very important to protect French – but what interests me is making the system work. 'a better way. It’s not a question of who has control of what,” Mr. Trudeau explained during a short press scrum in front of journalists.

The day before, during question period, François Legault had affirmed that he would take advantage of his summit meeting with Mr. Trudeau to demand full powers over immigration. Otherwise, the Quebec Prime Minister intended to “evaluate his options”. At a press conference, shortly after the meeting with his counterpart on Friday, Mr. Legault reiterated that several avenues were on the table, but that it was “too early” to say which ones. “When we're ready, we'll tell you,” he said.

The head of the CAQ government considers the repatriation of full immigration powers as essential “to protect the language and identity of the Quebec nation.” However, he has already ruled out holding a sectoral referendum on immigration. “I don’t think we need to hold a referendum to ask Quebecers if they would like to repatriate powers to Quebec. I think it’s consensual,” he said in February. He also appeared hesitant on Friday about the possibility of reopening the Canada-Quebec Accord, which governs the sharing of powers between the two governments in matters of immigration and which Quebec can choose to renegotiate whenever it wants.

“We must still understand that this agreement has advantages for Quebec,” Mr. Legault explained on Friday. “I have often heard my colleagues from other provinces say: “As for permanent immigrants, you have full jurisdiction over the choice of economic immigrants.” So, we want to be sure that in the negotiations with Ottawa, we do not lose these powers, that we do not back down. »

Trudeau says no to giving full immigration powers to Quebec

Photo: Christine Muschi The Canadian Press The Prime Ministers of Canada and Quebec, Justin Trudeau and François Legault, before their meeting

No new funds

Despite Ottawa's refusal on the sharing of powers, François Legault believes he managed to move forward on several fronts on Friday. According to him, Mr. Trudeau demonstrated openness to Quebec being able to decide the number of temporary workers admitted to its territory and for a “part” of them “to be refused” when their work permit is renewed. . Mr. Legault agreed with his counterpart to meet between now and the end of next June to follow up on these requests.

Clearly, the Legault government requested on Friday a right to review the number of Quebec acceptance certificates issued for federal temporary worker programs — first and foremost, the International Mobility Program. According to the Prime Minister, “this would give Quebec a sort of veto over all temporary workers.”

“First of all, that would be a gain,” he said. Perhaps Mr. Trudeau does not call it a repatriation of powers, but if we were able […] to say: “no temporary worker is accepted by Ottawa without first having the agreement of Quebec” , that would already be an important power. »

In recent weeks, the office of the CAQ Prime Minister had expressly asked the federal government that a meeting be organized to address the hot topic of immigration. In January, Mr. Legault also wrote a letter to his counterpart to demand a better distribution of asylum seekers across Canada. “We are very close to the breaking point,” he argued.

Quebec still wants to see around $1 billion appear in its coffers in compensation for the costs generated by welcoming asylum seekers since 2021. While it says it is aware of the “pressure” exerted by the influx of asylum seekers, Asylum on “the Quebec budget, but also on the health and education systems”, Mr. Trudeau did not announce new sums on Friday. “We are going to talk more directly about the figures in working meetings,” underlined the Canadian Prime Minister, information subsequently confirmed by Mr. Legault.

In January, the federal government released a pot of $100 million to finance a program aimed at housing people awaiting asylum hosted in Quebec.

In Montreal on Friday, for an outing on the reform of the electoral map, the leader of the Parti Québécois, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, deplored Prime Minister Trudeau's “clear and resounding no” on immigration powers. “What is sad, even humiliating, is that it is a fully legitimate request from a government which obtained the strong mandate it asked for,” he said.

In a press release, the co-spokesperson for Québec solidaire, Émilise Lessard-Therrien, for her part condemned the inability of François Legault to “seek more powers for Quebec” . “He is also incapable of making the immigration system work for the benefit of immigrants and Quebec,” she criticized.

“In addition to improvising within the framework of major projects and budgets, François Legault is not a pro at negotiating with the federal government,” argued the spokesperson for the Liberal Party of Quebec on immigration matters, André A. Morin.

An agreement before the end of the month ?

Prime Ministers Trudeau and Legault met in an official meeting for the first time since December 2022 on Friday. In addition to immigration, the two leaders took the opportunity to discuss health and economic growth. The question of compensation for federal dental and drug insurance programs was addressed, as was that of health transfers immobilized in Ottawa.

On this last point, Mr. Trudeau said he was “confident” of seeing an agreement reached with Quebec on health transfers “before the end of the month”. Pending the signing of a bilateral agreement, the Canadian government is still withholding some $900 million in health transfers intended for Quebec.

According to our information, however, discussions have accelerated in recent days. Both in Ottawa and Quebec, we now believe we are on the right track to conclude an asymmetrical agreement soon. Quebec would agree to share some of its data and Ottawa would allow the money to be spent as the Legault government wishes.

As for the negotiations on federal health insurance programs, Mr. Trudeau assures that he had “good discussions” with his counterpart on Friday “on whether we can align our programs and ensure that it there is a sharing and respect of skills.”

With Zacharie Goudreault

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116