MONTREAL — The Parti Quebecois' new immigration policy announced Tuesday sets a goal of having one quarter of all new immigrants settle outside the Montreal area and forces potential newcomers to pass a French test before they arrive in the province.
PQ leader Jean-Francois Lisee said his plan will better integrate newcomers and prevent more of them from leaving the province for other parts of Canada, encourage immigrants to live outside Montreal and respond to Quebec's labour shortage.
A PQ government elected Oct. 1 would try to reverse the trend that sees 90 per cent of all newcomers to Quebec move to the Montreal area, Lisee said.
The plan also seeks to ensure newcomers speak French by forcing them to pass a test before they get on Quebec soil, Lisee said.
"We are more frank about the conditions for success," he told reporters. "The people who come here and can't speak French are either unemployed, or they leave (for other provinces), therefore, they waste their time and ours."
Both the PQ and the Coalition Avenir Quebec said the Liberals' policies have led to high unemployment levels among immigrants and a failure of newcomers speaking adequate French.
The topic of immigration and the integration of newcomers is shaping up to become a major issue for the fall election.
Lisee presented figures Tuesday indicating that for the period of 2014-17, between 30 and 45 per cent of immigrants who arrived in Quebec left for other parts of Canada.
Moreover, 60 per cent of immigrants to Quebec during the same period didn't speak French and only 40 per cent of those took French courses.
Quebec selects its newcomers based on a point system and Lisee said a PQ government would offer more points to potential immigrants who qualify for a job outside the metropolis.
Lisee added that newcomers will still be given extra points even if they don't qualify for a job in the outlying regions, but show an intention to settle there.
"Our objective is for (immigrants) not to pass through Montreal, but go directly to the place where they have a job," Lisee said.
What he called the Liberal strategy of "letting them stay in Montreal — that doesn't work."
Pierre Saint-Arnaud, The Canadian Press