By Vancouver Sun |
It’s one of the most lopsided distributions of federal money in memory.
Quebec gets roughly four times as many taxpayer dollars from Ottawa to settle each of its immigrants as B.C., Ontario and several other provinces get.
What’s worse, the one-sided gap is growing bigger each year.
That’s because of a deal called the Canada-Quebec immigration accord, which prime minister Brian Mulroney signed in 1991 to give unique immigration powers to francophone provinces, mainly to appease a surging sovereigntist movement.
As a result, Quebec this year is receiving more than $11,600 for each immigrant and refugee it takes in, with the money meant to provide settlements services such as language and job training.
B.C. receives only about $2,400 for each new immigrant or refugee. Saskatchewan gets about $2,500, Ontario receives about $2,600 and Alberta gets about $3,300.
The disparity between Quebec and the other provinces is soon going to grow even more egregious.
That’s in part because the new premier of Quebec, Francois Legault, elected last year, is carrying through on his promise to cut immigration levels to his province by 10,000 newcomers annually. That means Quebec’s immigrant intake will drop to roughly the same as that of B.C. — about 40,000 a year.
Despite Quebec chopping its immigration levels by 20 per cent, the province will continue to get more money based on the generous financial mechanisms built into the Canada-Quebec accord.
It includes an escalator clause, which dictates that Canada is obliged in most years to give more money to Quebec to settle its new permanent residents, but never less than in a previous year.
What it adds up to is that Quebec will get $559 million for 2019-20, while B.C. will get a paltry $100 million — while needing to provide services to virtually the same number of new immigrants and refugees as Quebec.
Ontario, which accepts about 130,000 immigrants a year (by far the largest of any province), will get $340 million. Alberta, which usually takes about the same number as B.C., will receive $129 million.
It is an amazing sweetheart deal for Quebec. And few Canadians realize it, since the subject is virtually taboo among politicians.
“If Quebec takes in one immigrant or 50,000 immigrants, it still gets the same amount of money under the Canada-Quebec accord,” says Stephan Reichholt, who heads the umbrella organization that oversees 150 different settlement agencies in Quebec.
As one of Quebec’s foremost specialists on immigrants and refugees, Reichholt says the vast majority of Canadians have no idea the unbalanced funding is occurring — mainly because the federal government doesn’t want a fight with Quebec and its voters, and because it’s too embarrassed to draw attention to the huge gaps.
“It drives the feds crazy. But they can’t do anything about it. Most Canadians don’t understand the mechanism (of the accord). They don’t know what’s going on in Quebec,” said Reichhold, director general of the Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes.