Quebec to unveil program to bring in more foreign workers

The Quebec government will announce details on Monday of a $3.9-billion program to address what it says is a serious shortage of skilled workers in the province.

A special commission on the issue recommends the government build a “bridging” program that would allow employers to retain foreign workers for a year as it lays the groundwork for bringing in more permanent visas. The Bridge-to-Quebec program, a joint project of the federal government and Quebec, would begin this fall and would continue for three years.

To qualify, employers in sectors including health care, the food industry, hotels and transportation would have to offer their employees an average wage of at least $33.75 per hour, while also demonstrating the ability to meet the needs of the province’s municipalities and school boards.

The Bridge program could open the door to permanent immigration of permanent foreign workers. The first class of permanent workers will be “skilled” and will serve as a pilot project to see how much such a plan will help increase the number of immigrant workers in Quebec. A committee will study such options as “temporary” and “permanent” immigrants.

The Bridge program is the first step in an ongoing “two-year plan” aimed at bringing in more permanent foreign workers to Quebec. It is part of a 10-year, $30 billion plan, announced by Quebec’s recently appointed Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion, Kathleen Weil, in April.

Monday’s details are expected to lay out how the government intends to use new funding promised in the 2017 federal budget to resolve Quebec’s chronic labor shortages and realize the Liberal government’s commitment to bring more immigrants to the province. The federal budget also offered in Quebec $6,000 per family, over five years, as a bonus to ensure that immigrant families who agree to contribute to society are able to remain in Quebec.

On May 29, Quebec’s Ministry of Labour issued a report on the state of labor shortages in the province that said many workers are “left behind” as they struggle to learn the French language. According to data provided by the ministry, there are, on average, 673,721 workers in Quebec. But that number represents a projection for the next year.

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