Yakabuski: The Trudeau government seems awfully cozy with McKinsey – and that demands scrutiny

More questioning of the role that McKinsey has played and continues to play in Canada.

Had some experience while at Service Canada working with high level consultants (not McKinsey) and, while they were instrumental in helping develop frameworks and strategies, it was a challenge to ensue they and us as public servants remained focussed on where their contribution was most needed.

And overall, government needs to focus on strengthening its policy and program capacity rather than over relying on outside expertise whose private sector expertise, while useful, is sometimes an unrealistic fit for the government context.

The money quote “Wedge yourself in and spread like an amoeba” applies more broadly than McKinsey:

Business schools across the country would do well to undertake a case study on McKinsey & Co.’s remarkable success in winning contracts from the federal government since Justin Trudeau’s Liberals took power. There, they’ll find insights into how Ottawa really works.

McKinsey, the pedigreed consulting firm that has been plagued by a series of conflict-of-interest scandals spanning several countries, has been practically wedded at the hip to Mr. Trudeau’s government since the firm’s then-global managing partner, Dominic Barton, was picked to head up Ottawa’s advisory council on economic growth in 2016.

Out of the supposed generosity of its heart, McKinsey provided pro bono research support to the council. We are told that this had absolutely no influence on the Trudeau government’s subsequent awarding of a string of multimillion-dollar contracts to the firm, including, as The Globe and Mail reported last year, a $24.8-million deal to advise the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) on “transformation strategies,” whatever that means.

This week, Radio-Canada arrived at its own tally of federal contracts awarded to McKinsey since Mr. Trudeau’s government was first elected in 2015: While the firm earned a mere $2.2-million in federal government work when Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were in power between 2006 and 2015, it has pocketed more than $66-million in less than seven years under the Liberals.

And even that sum, Radio-Canada conceded, does not provide a complete picture, since it leaves out contracts awarded by Crown corporations such as the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada. The government’s response to an order paper question submitted by Conservative MP Tako Van Popta included $84-million in federal payments to McKinsey in the 18 months up to November on various contracts. That total includes payments to BDC and EDC.

Bloc Québécois MP Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe asked Immigration Minister Sean Fraser to provide the details of McKinsey’s IRCC contracts at a meeting of the House of Commons immigration committee in November. Mr. Fraser referred the question to his deputy minister, Christiane Fox, who in turn asked assistant deputy minister Hughes St-Pierre to answer, though not before adding: “I’d like to point out that one of the contracts that McKinsey was awarded in the past was to deliver a training program for our Black employees wanting to move into a leadership position within the department.” As if diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives justify everything.

Mr. St-Pierre was equally unhelpful. “It was to advise us on how to transform the department,” was all he said of the largest and most recent contract the department handed to McKinsey.

The advisory council Mr. Barton headed called for a 50-per-cent increasein the number of permanent residents Canada accepts annually, from 300,000 in 2016 to 450,000 in 2021, to boost economic growth and reduce the old-age dependency ratio. The Trudeau government has gone even further than the council recommended, announcing plans in November to boost immigration numbers to 500,000 newcomers by 2025.

How Canada’s chronically backlogged immigration system can handle this surge is anyone’s guess. Whether McKinsey’s advice is worth the taxpayer money paid to the firm is equally impossible to discern. Ottawa refuses to provide a full accounting of the work McKinsey performed, or to make public any report the firm produced.

The chronology of McKinsey’s ever deepening business relationship with the federal government will not surprise anyone who has studied the strategies the firm has employed in any of the 65 countries in which it operates.

“Wedge yourself in and spread like an amoeba,” a senior McKinsey partner once said in explaining to young recruits how to win business from potential clients. “Once in, you should spread yourself in the organization and do everything.” The quote is included in When McKinsey Comes to Town, a recent book about McKinsey’s global activities by Walt Bogdanich and Michael Forsythe that examines the firm’s underbelly.

Can you draw a straight line between Mr. Barton’s cozy relationship with the Liberal government – Mr. Trudeau named him as Canada’s ambassador to China shortly after he stepped down from the top job at McKinsey – and the firm’s ability to win contracts in Ottawa? Is it just a coincidence that McKinsey landed a juicy deal to provide advice on how to transform the immigration department just after the advisory council Mr. Barton headed recommended transforming Canada’s immigration system?

These are not banal questions. Similar ones are swirling around French President Emmanuel Macron, whose government has also awarded countless contracts to McKinsey in recent years. French authorities have opened an investigation into the potential illegal financing of Mr. Macron’s 2017 and 2022 election campaigns. Among other things, the authorities are probing whether McKinsey associates worked on Mr. Macron’s campaigns for free as a networking opportunity that subsequently yielded lucrative paid contracts.

Wedge yourself in and spread like an amoeba, indeed.

Source: The Trudeau government seems awfully cozy with McKinsey – and that demands scrutiny

Yakabuski: Le Canada, champion mondial d’immigration

Good observations on the contrast between Quebec and the rest of Canada:

Le ministre fédéral de l’Immigration, des Réfugiés et de la Citoyenneté, Sean Fraser, s’apprête à dévoiler de nouvelles cibles en matière d’immigration pour 2023, 2024 et 2025. Et tout indique que l’annonce que M. Fraser fera mardi prochain prévoira une nouvelle hausse du nombre de résidents permanents par rapport aux dernières cibles, celles-là annoncées il y a un an à peine. Alors que le Québec promet de plafonner ses seuils d’immigration autour de 50 000 nouveaux résidents permanents par année, le reste du Canada, lui, s’apprêterait à bientôt accueillir plus de huit fois ce nombre. Nul besoin d’être économiste ou démographe pour anticiper les conséquences à court et à long termes de ces positions discordantes.

Déjà, le Québec voit sa part d’immigrants fondre comme peau de chagrin d’année en année. Destination de 19,2 % des immigrants arrivés au Canada entre 2006 et 2011, le Québec n’accueillait plus que 15,3 % des immigrants entrés au pays entre 2016 et 2021. Les données provenant du dernier recensement publiées cette semaine par Statistique Canada témoignent de l’énorme transformation démographique que connaît le Canada anglais, et ce, même en dehors de ses plus grandes métropoles.

À Hamilton et à Winnipeg, deux villes ayant une population semblable à celle de Québec, la proportion d’immigrants s’élève maintenant à plus de 25 % ; dans la Vieille Capitale, à peine 6,7 % des résidents sont nés en dehors du Canada. Dans la ville de Saguenay, une proportion famélique de la population est issue de l’immigration, soit 1,3 %, alors qu’à Red Deer et à Lethbridge, des villes albertaines de tailles semblables, les proportions sont de 16,9 % et de 14,4 %, respectivement.

Les chiffres frappent encore davantage l’imagination lorsque l’on tient compte des enfants des immigrants. Dans la grande région de Toronto, par exemple, presque 80 % des résidents sont immigrants de première ou de deuxième générations, selon une analyse des données du recensement effectuée par le démographe Doug Norris, de la firme torontoise Environics. À Montréal, environ 46 % des résidents sont immigrants ou enfants d’immigrants. Bien qu’il s’agisse d’une proportion passablement élevée, c’est moins qu’à Vancouver (73 %), qu’à Calgary (55 %) ou qu’à Edmonton (50 %).

Selon les résultats d’un sondage publié cette semaine par Environics, et effectué pour le compte de L’Initiative du siècle, les Canadiens sont plus favorables que jamais à l’immigration. Ceci n’est pas surprenant ; plus de 40 % des Canadiens sont immigrants ou enfants d’immigrants. On peut s’attendre à ce que ces gens aient un parti pris en faveur de l’immigration.

Mais le consensus canadien en matière d’immigration s’étend bien au-delà des communautés culturelles du pays. « Alors même que le pays accueille plus de 400 000 nouveaux arrivants par année, sept Canadiens sur dix soutiennent les seuils actuels d’immigration — la plus forte majorité en 45 ans de sondages Environics, a fait remarquer Lisa Lalande, présidente de L’Initiative du siècle, un organisme qui prône une politique d’immigration ayant pour but d’augmenter la population canadienne à 100 millions de personnes en l’an 2100. Malgré la rhétorique chargée sur l’immigration durant la campagne électorale provinciale, les Québécois appuient tout autant l’accueil des immigrants et des réfugiés que les Canadiens ailleurs au pays. »

Or, le sondage d’Environics fut mené en septembre, alors que la Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) promettait de maintenir les seuils d’immigration à 50 000 dans la province. Donc, l’expression « les seuils actuels d’immigration » n’a pas le même sens ici qu’ailleurs au Canada. Au Québec, ces seuils sont plutôt modestes ; dans le reste du Canada, ils sont très élevés.

Les 50 000 résidents permanents que le Québec s’engage à accueillir chaque année équivalent à environ 0,6 % de la population, et cette proportion est appelée à diminuer au fur et à mesure que la population augmentera. Les seuils d’immigration ailleurs au Canada s’élèvent à environ 1,2 % de la population par année, alors que cette population augmente à un rythme beaucoup plus rapide qu’au Québec. Au lieu de 400 000 nouveaux arrivants par an, c’est près de 500 000 immigrants que le reste du Canada pourrait bientôt en accueillir. Et des voix s’élèvent pour qu’Ottawa fasse preuve d’encore plus d’ambition en matière d’immigration.

« Bien que les chiffres absolus semblent élevés, ils doivent en fait être plus élevés encore en raison des défis démographiques du Canada, ont insisté pour dire l’ex-ministre libéral de l’Innovation, Navdeep Bains, et son ancien chef de cabinet, Elder Marques, dans un article publié la semaine dernière dans le National Post. Au début du XXe siècle, un Canada beaucoup plus petit accueillait autant d’immigrants que le Canada le fait aujourd’hui… Un Canada plus grand, plus riche et plus outillé nous attend si nous sommes prêts à faire le saut. »

Source: Le Canada, champion mondial d’immigration

Yakabuski: We cannot take Canadians’ positive views on immigration for granted 

Rare mainstream media commentary questioning the current orthodoxy regarding increased immigration and public support. Have wondered for some time whether housing, healthcare and other pressures will lead to a tipping point but as the latest Environics survey, no sign yet:

Canadians are global outliers in holding almost unfailingly positive attitudes about immigration.

Across the world, particularly in countries that have seen large and sudden waves of migrants in recent years, public opinion has turned harshly negative toward newcomers. The opposite has happened here, even in Quebec. Despite big increases in the number of immigrants this country accepts annually, fewer and fewer Canadians think our immigration levels are too high.

That is the finding made by the Environics Institute for Survey Research, which has been polling Canadians on this issue since 1977. Back then, more than 60 per cent of respondents thought the country was accepting too many immigrants. Now, only 27 per cent feel that way.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone. Canada has had the luxury of selecting immigrants in an orderly fashion. We even “choose” most of our refugees based on applications made outside Canada. And the Canada-U.S. border is an oasis of calm compared to the U.S.-Mexico border, notwithstanding the steady stream of asylum seekers arriving via Roxham Road in Quebec in recent years.

There is another, perhaps even more salient, explanation for why Canadians are so bullish on immigration. Fully 44 per cent of us are first- or second-generation immigrants, according to 2021 census data compiled by Environics chief demographer Doug Norris.

In the Greater Toronto Area, the proportion of first- and second-generation newcomers is 79.6 per cent. In Vancouver, it is 72.5 per cent. Even in most of the country’s smaller urban centres, outside of Quebec, about half of residents are now immigrants or the children of immigrants.

You are much more likely to view immigration positively if you are an immigrant yourself or the child of one. Immigrants account for more – much more – of the population here than in any other developed country except for Australia. And the proportion is set to rise sharply – to as much as 34 per cent of Canada’s population in 2041, from 2021′s record level of 23 per cent, according to Statscan’s projections.

What’s not to like? Well, for a country that is already experiencing a severe housing-affordability crisis and a major infrastructure deficit, welcoming around 450,000 new permanent residents on an annual basis, on top of tens of thousands of temporary foreign workers and international students, involves significant challenges.

Unfortunately, there are few signs that policymakers in Ottawa have thought through how the country can accommodate this influx without further straining our already strained health-care and education systems. While immigration can offer a partial solution to severe shortages of nurses and teachers – if provinces move more rapidly to recognize their credentials – overall it creates more consumers than providers of health-care and education services.

In a study prepared last year for Quebec’s immigration ministry, economist Pierre Fortin threw cold water on the idea – advanced in 2016 by Ottawa’s Advisory Committee on Economic Growth – that higher immigration levels could help resolve intractable labour shortages that have only grown worse since then.

“Resorting to immigration can relieve worker shortages at the individual firm level, though the great administrative complexity and the long wait times often render this process ineffective; but, unfortunately, at the macroeconomic level, the [council’s] idea that immigration can reduce labour shortages because it increases the working-age population is nothing more than a big fallacy of composition,” Prof. Fortin wrote. “This idea is based on incomplete logic that ‘forgets’ that immigration ends up increasing the demand for labour and not only the supply of labour.”

Next week, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser is expected to announce Ottawa’s revised immigration targets for 2023, 2024 and 2025. That announcement needs to be followed by a more elaborate strategy than Canada has seen to date to enhance the country’s capacity to integrate ever-increasing numbers of newcomers. Otherwise, we are only asking for trouble down the road.

Canada has been spared the backlash against immigration experienced in other countries, in part because few politicians see any mileage in stoking resentment toward newcomers. That is likely to remain true as long as our multicultural suburbs continue to determine electoral outcomes. But no one should take it for granted.

With the country’s emergency rooms running beyond capacity, its housing shortage leaving too many people on the sidelines and its public infrastructure in a steady state of disrepair, it would be a mistake to assume that attitudes here toward immigration will always remain so positive.

Source: We cannot take Canadians’ positive views on immigration for granted

David: Les pommes québécoises et les oranges suisses [immigration], Yakabuski: In Quebec, immigration takes centre stage again on the campaign trail

More on Quebec election immigration debates, starting with Michel Davidd:

François Legault a cette fâcheuse habitude de prendre des raccourcis intellectuels qui déforment la réalité à sa convenance, comme il le fait presque quotidiennement dans le dossier du troisième lien.

Pour justifier sa décision de limiter le nombre d’immigrants à 50 000 par année alors que le gouvernement Trudeau prévoit en accueillir jusqu’à 450 000 pour l’ensemble du Canada, le chef de la CAQ a fait valoir les avantages des petits pays comme la Suisse et les États scandinaves.

Personne ne doute de leur extraordinaire réussite dans une multitude de domaines où une population plus nombreuse peut compliquer les choses. Il est clair que la taille n’est aucunement un gage de richesse ou de qualité de vie.

M. Legault sait cependant très bien qu’il compare des pommes et des oranges quand il établit un parallèle entre des États qui détiennent tous les attributs de la souveraineté et une simple province dont les pouvoirs sont limités, notamment en matière d’immigration. Que leur voisin allemand ouvre les vannes de l’immigration n’empêche en rien la Suisse ou le Danemark de fixer leurs propres règles sans provoquer chez eux un quelconque déséquilibre démographique ou politique.

Il va de soi qu’une explosion du nombre d’immigrants au Canada anglais, alors que le Québec choisit de le limiter, ne peut qu’affaiblir son poids au sein de la fédération et rendre encore plus difficile sa capacité d’affirmer sa différence.

Et suivre le mouvement canadien, ce qui imposerait au Québec d’accueillir 100 000 immigrants par année, compromettrait encore plus sûrement son caractère français, dont les chiffres du dernier recensement ont encore démontré la fragilité.
* * * * * 
Même dans un État souverain, la capacité d’intégration des nouveaux arrivants a ses limites. En avril dernier, la première ministre suédoise, Magdalena Andersson, déclarait que son pays « n’avait pas réussi à intégrer les nombreux immigrés qu’il a accueillis au cours des deux dernières décennies, ce qui a donné naissance à des sociétés parallèles et à la violence des gangs ».

Issue du Parti social-démocrate, Mme Andersson n’est pourtant pas une politicienne de droite adepte de la théorie complotiste du « grand remplacement ». La Suède s’est montrée très généreuse — peut-être trop — lors de la crise migratoire de 2015, en étant le pays européen à accueillir le plus grand nombre de migrants par habitant. « Nous allons devoir revoir nos vérités antérieures et prendre des décisions difficiles », a relevé la première ministre.

Le Québec n’est évidemment pas seul à tenter de concilier le désir de préserver son identité et la nécessité de répondre aux besoins du marché du travail. Au
Danemark, également dirigé par une première ministre sociale-démocrate, Mette Frederiksen, une politique migratoire très restrictive se traduit par un taux de chômage très bas et un manque criant de main-d’oeuvre.
* * * * * 
S’il est difficile pour un État souverain de trouver le juste équilibre, cela devient pratiquement impossible pour le gouvernement qui ne dispose pas de tous les éléments pour résoudre l’équation.

Il y a quelque chose de surréaliste dans le débat sur les seuils d’immigration auquel la présente campagne électorale donne lieu. Chaque parti semble tirer un chiffre de son chapeau, bien qu’il n’ait aucun pouvoir sur la sélection de la moitié de ceux qu’il compte accueillir et ne soit pas en mesure d’évaluer la capacité d’intégration de la société québécoise.

Au-delà de la « compatibilité civilisationnelle » évoquée par le Parti conservateur du Québec, il va de soi qu’un plus grand nombre de personnes exige plus de logements, de places en garderie, de travailleurs de la santé, d’enseignants, etc. Ce qui exige précisément de disposer de tous les outils nécessaires.

Le rapatriement des pouvoirs en matière d’immigration est la seule réclamation commune aux cinq partis, qu’ils soient fédéralistes ou souverainistes. Mais le refus d’Ottawa demeure toujours aussi catégorique.

Jean Charest avait espéré que Stephen Harper fasse preuve d’ouverture. François Legault avait misé sans trop y croire sur Andrew Scheer, puis sur Erin O’Toole. S’il devient premier ministre, Éric Duhaime se fait fort de convaincre Pierre Poilievre et ses homologues conservateurs au Canada anglais. Cela demeure bien hypothétique, c’est le moins qu’on puisse dire.

De passage à la table éditoriale du Devoir, mardi, le chef conservateur a proposé une démarche commune de tous les partis représentés à l’Assemblée nationale, ce qui apparaît déjà plus plausible, sans toutefois offrir la moindre garantie de succès.

Depuis le début de la campagne, M. Legault n’a pas reparlé de la grande conversation nationale sur l’immigration qu’il avait évoquée au printemps dernier sans en préciser la forme, mais il faudra bien faire quelque chose. Si cet exercice pouvait simplement permettre de séparer les pommes et les oranges, ce serait déjà quelque chose.

Source: Les pommes québécoises et les oranges suisses

And from the Globe’s Yakabuski, a good overview:

It wouldn’t be an election campaign in Quebec without a debate about immigration.

Elsewhere in the country, elections come and go without much talk about immigration. A broad consensus exists on the topic across the political spectrum and political parties rarely, if ever, seek to differentiate themselves on the issue. That, it seems, is the Canadian way.

In Quebec, however, immigration has become a hot-button issue that features prominently in party platforms. The issue played a determining role in the 2018 campaign as the Coalition Avenir Québec’s signature promise to slash the number of newcomers the province accepts each year propelled it to victory over the Quebec Liberal Party. Under then-premier Philippe Couillard, the Liberals had set an annual target of 60,000 permanent residents; the CAQ, under François Legault, vowed to cut the number to 40,000. It crushed the Liberals.

Within a couple of years, though, the CAQ government increased its annual target for new permanent residents – to 50,000 – and oversaw an explosion in temporary foreign workers to help alleviate a severe labour shortage amid a clamouring for employees from the business sector. The somewhat ironic result is that Quebec has seen a greater influx of foreigners under the CAQ – to more than 93,000 in 2019 and 100,000 expected this year – than it ever did under the Liberals. Proof that there is a lot more than meets the eye on the immigration file.

The nuances get lost on the campaign trail, however, as the parties once again go at each other over immigration levels in advance of the Oct. 3 provincial election.

Mr. Legault maintains that the CAQ’s 50,000 cap on permanent residents represents the number of newcomers the province can integrate each year without threatening its French character. On Monday, he conceded that Quebec’s population is destined to continue to decline as a share of the Canadian population as Ottawa boosts national immigration targets to 450,000 permanent residents in 2024. But that is the price Quebec must pay to remain an island of French in North America.

Besides, small is beautiful. “Switzerland is an extraordinarily rich, and extraordinarily dynamic, small country,” Mr. Legault said. “Being big might be nice, but what’s important is having a [high] quality of life for the people who live in Quebec.”

But maintaining Quebeckers’ quality of life will become an increasing challenge as the province’s working-age population shrinks and the proportion of seniors rises to 24.8 per cent in 2030 from 20.3 per cent in 2021, according to the Quebec Finance Ministry’s own projections. With a population aging faster than the rest of the country outside Atlantic Canada, future economic growth will be severely handicapped.

That reality has not stopped the sovereigntist Parti Québécois from vowing to cut immigration levels further – to 35,000 permanent residents annually, or less than 8 per cent of the Canadian total – if it wins on Oct. 3. At that rate, Quebec’s share of Canada’s population (which now stands at 22.5 per cent) would likely plummet even more rapidly than it is forecast to fall under Statistics Canada’s most recent projections, which show it falling to 19.8 per cent by 2043.

To back up his plan, Parti Québécois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon has referred to a study produced this year for the Quebec Ministry of Immigration by economist Pierre Fortin that disputes the argument that higher immigration levels are needed to address labour shortages as “a big fallacy,” since an influx of newcomers creates demand in the economy that serves to exacerbate shortages for workers, housing and health care.

Prof. Fortin’s study is especially critical of Ottawa’s immigration targets, arguing they will lead to “bureaucratic congestion and confusion,” produce scarce economic benefits, and increase the “social risk of stoking xenophobia and encouraging a rejection of immigration.”

Under leader Dominique Anglade, the Liberals are proposing to boost the number of permanent residents Quebec accepts to 70,000 in 2023. It would determine immigration levels beyond that year in conjunction with the province’s 17 regions in a bid to get more newcomers to locate outside the greater Montreal area.

The far-left Québec Solidaire has adopted the most ambitious immigration targets of all the parties, promising to welcome up to 80,000 permanent residents to the province annually. That would still not be enough for Quebec’s population growth to keep pace with the rest of Canada, but the figure clearly sets QS apart as the most unabashedly pro-immigration party in this election campaign.

When the CAQ leader challenged QS co-spokesperson (and de facto leader) Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois to explain how his party would slow the decline of French in Quebec with such high immigration levels, he responded with a zinger: “The difference between Mr. Legault and me is that he points fingers and I open my arms.”

Source: Opinion: In Quebec, immigration takes centre stage again on the campaign trail

ICYMI: Yakabuski: Can Canada handle its coming population boom?

Valid question. Alternative question: Is the coming population boom good for Canada and Canadians?

The latest projections from Statistics Canada show that Canada’s population is poised to grow much faster over the next two decades than the federal agency forecast just three years ago, suggesting any downturn in the country’s housing market is likely to be short-lived.

Indeed, the revised Statscan figures released last week underscore the need for policy makers to clear the way for more housing and infrastructure projects now to accommodate a fast-growing national population that is projected to increase by around 10 million people by 2043.

Statscan normally updates its population projections every five years. But the agency undertook a “necessary” revision of its 2019 projections this year “to reflect recent developments in Canadian demographics,” including the pandemic and Ottawa’s move to increase immigration targets. While the longer-term impact of the pandemic on population growth is expected to be “rather imperceptible,” the opposite is true for the higher immigration levels.

In February, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government announced plans to boost immigration levels “to help the Canadian economy recover and to fuel post-pandemic growth,” following a sharp drop in the number of newcomers arriving in Canada in 2020. Immigration rebounded in 2021, with a record 405,332 new permanent residents arriving here. And Canada is set to welcome about 432,000 new permanent residents this year, 447,000 in 2023 and 451,000 in 2024.

National Bank of Canada economists Matthieu Arseneau and Alexandra Ducharme noted that Canada’s population will increase by one million more people by 2032 than Statscan previously projected. Almost all of that extra growth will occur among those aged between 25 and 54 years old – an age cohort that is “crucial to the resilience of consumption and real estate.”

Royal Bank of Canada economists Robert Hogue and Carrie Freestone came to a similar conclusion even before the release of Statscan’s updated population projections. In a mid-August report, they projected that Canada will count 730,000 more households by 2024 than it had in 2021, as the country welcomes more than 1.3 million new immigrants.

“This surge, combined with shrinking household sizes, will strengthen demand for housing (whether owned or rented) and act as a powerful counter to sliding sales and prices – eventually putting a floor under the correction,” they wrote.

The updated Statscan projections highlight the urgency for policy makers to plan for what is expected to be the highest population growth among the Group of Seven countries over the next two decades and beyond. Based on the federal agency’s medium-growth scenario, Canada’s population is projected to grow to 47.8 million in 2043 from 38.2 million in 2021.

Ontario is expected to add more than four million new residents over the next 20 years, with its population rising to 19 million from 14.8 million. Canada’s most populous province will see its share of the national population increase to 39.8 per cent from 38.8 per cent.

Even so, Ontario’s 28-per-cent population growth over the next two decades is expected to pale compared with a 46-per-cent surge in Alberta, which will see its population grow to 6.5 million by 2043 from 4.4 million. Albertans will account for about 13.5 per cent of Canada’s population in 2043, up from 11.6 per cent in 2021.

However, Quebec’s share of the Canada’s population is set to fall below 20 per cent for the first time, as the province (which chooses its own economic immigrants) accepts proportionally fewer newcomers than the rest of the country. From 22.5 per cent of Canada’s population in 2021, Quebec will see its share decline to 19.8 per cent by 2043. Quebec’s overall population will grow by less than 10 per cent over the same period, to 9.4 million.

The Atlantic provinces will benefit from interprovincial migration levels that will be higher than those forecast before the pandemic, but not enough to reverse a decline in the region’s share of the national population. Newfoundland and Labrador’s population will shrink outright.

Ottawa’s higher immigration targets will on their own not be enough to ease the country’s labour shortage, as more and more Canadians retire in coming years. Even more aggressive immigration levels would be needed to reverse the aging trend that will see the share of the population over 65 increase steadily over the next two decades to 23.1 per cent in 2043 from 18.5 per cent in 2021.

The average age of Canadians, which increased from 27.3 years in 1921 to 41.7 years in 2021, will rise further to 44.1 years by 2043. And while about 871,000 were over 85 in 2021, their ranks will swell to more than 2.2 million by 2043.

Still, Canada’s population projections tell a rather enviable story compared with many European countries, where population aging is occurring at a much faster rate amid lower immigration levels. The question is whether policy makers here can move fast enough to prepare the country for its coming population boom.

Source: Can Canada handle its coming population boom?

Yakabuski: Official bilingualism is officially dead in Canada

Overly dramatic header but as we see in initial reactions in Quebec, recent action/inaction by the federal government, and the ever increasing gap between immigration to English Canada compared to Quebec, the trendline is not encouraging:

Statistics Canada surely did not time the release of language data from the 2021 Census to coincide with the launch of an election campaign in Quebec. But its publication of findings that confirm the decline of French within the province and across Canada are sure to light a fuse on the campaign trail as Premier François Legault calls for Ottawa to cede more powers to Quebec.

Neither did the federal agency likely consider the optics of releasing its report on the heels of the Aug. 15 Fête nationale de l’Acadie, the annual celebration of francophones in Atlantic Canada that marks the 1755 expulsion of thousands of their ancestors from the region by the British. Many ended up in Louisiana, where the French-language is today spoken by only a tiny minority of their descendants.

In May, as he revealed plans to seek full control over immigration policy if his Coalition Avenir Québec wins the Oct. 3 election, Mr. Legault warned that Quebec runs the risk of becoming another Louisiana without the ability to choose its own immigrants, including those who come to Quebec through the federal family reunification program. “It is a question of survival for our nation,” he said then.

Statistics Canada’s Wednesday report, showing that more newcomers to Quebec are using English as their first official language, will only serve to buttress Mr. Legault’s argument. The proportion of Quebeckers who primarily spoke English rose to 13 per cent in 2021 from 12 per cent in 2016, topping the one-million mark for the first time. The share who spoke predominantly French at home fell to 77.5 per cent from 79 per cent, despite extensive government efforts to “francize” new immigrants.

More than 70 per cent of Quebeckers who speak English as their first official language live on the Island of Montreal or in the suburban Montérégie region. The concentration of English speakers in and around the Quebec metropolis has long created linguistic tensions. Protecting Montreal’s “French face” is seen as imperative by most francophone Quebeckers, but many allophone newcomers to the city still gravitate toward English, sometimes even after attending French public schools.

And as Montreal goes, many fear, so goes the province. Which is why Bill 96 – the law adopted by Mr. Legault’s government in June that caps enrolment in English-language junior colleges among dozens of other measures aimed at protecting French – is seen by many francophones as a strict minimum.

Across Canada, French has been on the decline for decades despite Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s government adoption of the Official Languages Act in 1969. In 1971, French was the first official language spoken by 27.2 per cent of Canadians. By 2016, the proportion had declined to 22.2 per cent. In 2021, it fell again to 21.4 per cent. Where will it stand in 2026? You don’t need a PhD to figure it out.

The dream of a bilingual Canada d’un océan à l’autre may never have been more than that. But the reduction of French to folkloric status everywhere outside Quebec and in pockets of New Brunswick and Northern Ontario is the writing on the wall. Between 2016 and 2021, the proportion of the population speaking French at home declined in every region of the country except Yukon, where it rose to 2.6 per cent from 2.4 per cent. In New Brunswick, Canada’s only officially bilingual province, the share speaking French at home fell to 26.4 per cent from 28 per cent.

It may be fashionable among English-Canadian elites to enrol their kids in French immersion classes. But anemic rates of bilingualism hors Quebec and New Brunswick speak for themselves. Outside Quebec, Canadians who claimed an ability to conduct a conversation in both official languages dropped to 9.5 per cent from 9.8 per cent and down from a peak of 10.1 per cent two decades ago.

Even the federal public service, which once aspired to set an example, no longer prioritizes Canada’s official languages equally. In May, a Radio-Canada report showed that francophones are underrepresented in the upper echelons of the federal bureaucracy. Now, there is a push to waive French-English bilingualism requirements if applicants speak an Indigenous language or aspire to.

Removing barriers to career advancement faced by Indigenous people in Canada is a legitimate objective. But francophones argue it should not mean the diminution of the status of French within the public service. They worry that the appointment of Mary Simon as Governor-General, despite her inability to speak French, paves the way for more such nominations. They are not wrong to worry.

The latest census figures will exacerbate feelings of linguistic insecurity among francophone Quebeckers in particular. There will be consequences. We may witness a few of them on the campaign trail.

Source: Official bilingualism is officially dead in Canada

Yakabuski: Amid Quebec labour crunch, Legault spurns business demands for more immigrants

A natural experiment: as the rest of Canada increases immigration, Quebec adapts a more restrictive approach.

Will be interesting to contrast Quebec economic outcomes with those of the other provinces, particularly with respect to productivity and income, over the coming years:

Generations of Quebeckers were once forced to leave home for work, fleeing to Ontario or New England for a job, as their native province grappled with a chronic unemployment problem.

Until the turn of the century, Quebec’s jobless rate consistently exceeded the Canadian average by several percentage points. The spread with Ontario stood at as much as five points in the 1980s and never shrank below three points before 2000.

That was then. A falling birth rate, a fast-aging population and lower immigration levels than in the rest of Canada have since combined to make Quebec’s labour market the country’s second tightest after British Columbia.

Quebec’s unemployment rate stood at 5.6 per cent in October, compared with 7 per cent in Ontario and 6.7 per cent nationally. At 3.8 per cent, the unemployment rate in Quebec City was the lowest of any census metropolitan area in the country.

Premier François Legault considers this a nice problem to have.

“You have to admit it’s good news for [Quebec’s] 4.5 million workers because it puts upward pressure – and we’ve seen it for the past three years – on salaries,” the Premier said last week. “I’d rather have a lack of workers than a lack of jobs.”

Quebec businesses do not see it that way, however. They describe an acute labour shortage – there are currently more than 220,000 job vacancies in the province – as the biggest obstacle to economic growth. The province’s manufacturers have foregone $18-billion in revenues in the past two years because they could not find enough workers to fill orders. Many businesses are closing for lack of employees.

Last week, five of Quebec’s main business groups joined with the Union des municipalités du Québec to demand Mr. Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec government boost immigration levels to prevent the current labour shortage from getting even worse. In addition to working with the federal government to accelerate the application process for temporary foreign workers, the groups want the province to permanently boost the number of permanent residents it accepts each year and do more to get newcomers to settle outside the greater Montreal area to more remote regions where the worker shortage has reached crisis levels.

Karl Blackburn, the head of the province’s main employers’ group, le Conseil du patronat du Québec (CPQ), called the province’s labour shortage “an economic catastrophe,” and called on Finance Minister Eric Girard to introduce new measures to address the labour crunch in next week’s fall economic statement.

Mr. Legault, who was elected in 2018 on a signature promise to temporarily cut immigration levels, continues to push back against such demands. The Premier emphasized automation, job training and digitization last week while outlining his government’s strategy for easing the labour shortage and boosting productivity.

Mr. Legault has made closing the wealth gap between his province and Ontario – Quebec’s per-capita gross domestic product remains about 13 per cent lower – his government’s top economic priority. As a result, he has insisted that bringing in more immigrants, who typically start off making less than the average full-time salary of $56,000, would only make this task harder.

“Immigration might be part of the solution, but we have to realize that, at 50,000 [immigrants] a year, we have reached our capacity for integration,” Mr. Legault said. “If we want the next generations to continue speaking French, there is a limit to the number of immigrants we can accept.”

Under a decades-old agreement with Ottawa, Quebec establishes its own immigration targets and selects economic immigrants. The federal government is responsible for choosing newcomers who come to the province as refugees or under the family reunification program.

Mr. Legault’s government recently announced it would seek to bring in 70,000 immigrants in 2022. But the one-time boost would only to make up for a shortfall of newcomers experienced in 2020 and this year because of the pandemic. Despite the one-shot increase, Quebec will continue to receive far fewer immigrants relative to its population than Ontario, B.C. and Alberta.

To keep pace with the rest of the country, Quebec, which accounts for 22.5 per cent of the Canadian population, would need to increase the number of immigrants it accepts to 90,000 starting this year and increase the level annually after that.

In 2019, Quebec accepted only 40,565 immigrants, or 11.9 per cent of the 341,180 permanent residents admitted to Canada that year. Its share is set to rise temporarily to 17 per cent next year, but will fall below 12 per cent again starting in 2023 as Ottawa increases the national immigration target to 421,000.

Beyond the current labour crunch, the CAQ’s immigration policy will leave the province even less well equipped to face the budgetary pressures caused by an increasingly aging population. At 19.7 per cent, the proportion of Quebeckers over the age of 65 exceeded the national average of 18 per cent in 2020. Quebec also has fewer residents under the age of 20 than the rest of Canada, while the size of its working-aged population has been shrinking.

Mr. Legault, who is up for re-election in 2022, continues to portray immigration as a threat to Quebec’s distinct culture. But his policies are damaging his province’s economic prospects and reducing its political influence within Canada. How can that be good for Quebec’s cultural survival?

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/commentary/article-amid-quebec-labour-crunch-legault-spurns-business-demands-for-more/

Yakabuski: Quebec and France join forces against cancel culture

Yakabuski points out the irony given the cancel culture aspects of their policies and the intolerance of Bill 21:

When France’s education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, learned that a francophone Ontario school board had held a book-burning ceremony involving titles banned because of their negative portrayal of Indigenous people, he contacted his Quebec counterpart to commiserate.

Mr. Blanquer, who has been on a mission to turn back the tide of “cancel culture” on French university campuses, was incredulous at the news – which made the pages of the prestigious Paris-based Le Monde – of the Providence school board’s “flame purification” ceremony.

Included among the books incinerated during the ceremony – held in 2019, but which only came to light last month in a Radio-Canada report – were titles from the cartoon collections Tintin, Lucky Luke and Asterix, beloved by generations of young francophones on both sides of the Atlantic.

The result of Mr. Blanquer’s commiserating with Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge was a joint op-ed, published last week in Quebec and France, denouncing the “pernicious influence of a culture of intolerance and erasure” embodied by the book-burning.

“We have a duty to prepare our youth to exercise active, respectful and enlightened citizenship. A citizenship that allows for debate, the opinions of others, the confrontation of ideas and the questioning of all our beliefs,” Mr. Blanquer and Mr. Roberge wrote. “That is why we affirm with force and conviction that public schools, the first line of defence against ignorance and darkness, must be the preferred location for the construction of a common civic project.”

The op-ed was just Mr. Roberge’s opening salvo in his own crusade against wokeism in Quebec public schools. Two days later, the Coalition Avenir Québec minister announced his government would introduce a new “Quebec culture and citizenship” (QCC) course to replace the “ethics and religious culture” (ERC) curriculum now taught in public schools.

The current ERC course was adopted by former premier Jean Charest’s Liberal government in 2008, a decade after Quebec replaced its Catholic and Protestant school boards with linguistic ones. The ERC, which replaced the catechism courses that had long been taught in French Catholic schools, aimed to familiarize primary and secondary school students with the panoply of religions practised in Quebec. But critics have long argued that the course is an affront to modern Quebec’s secularist values.

That is an exaggeration. Even the children of non-believers should understand the influence of religion in the lives of most people, and the role the Catholic faith played in shaping modern Quebec. But the anti-clericalism espoused by francophone intellectuals since the Quiet Revolution has hardened attitudes toward the separation of church and state in Quebec.

The Mouvement laïque québécois (MLQ), an organization dedicated to the “total secularization of the state and public institutions in Quebec,” called the abolition of the ERC course “a breath of fresh air.” The ERC, the MLQ said, has been “an aberration and a disaster on the social level.”

Given its populist leanings, the CAQ government to which Mr. Roberge belongs is not particularly popular in Quebec intellectual circles. But Quebec nationalists and intellectuals have found common ground when it comes to secularism.

Both support Bill 21, though for different reasons. Nationalists see the law that prohibits some public-sector employees from wearing religious symbols as an assertion of Quebeckers’ distinct identity in the face of the multicultural ethos that prevails elsewhere in Canada. Intellectuals see it as protection against the incursion of religion in the public square, which they argue should be a faith-free zone.

The CAQ government’s move to replace the ERC with a new Quebec culture and citizenship course is similarly welcomed by nationalists as a blow to multiculturalism and an affirmation of Quebec’s dominant francophone identity. In a video promoting the new curriculum, Premier François Legault says the new course will lead to “a prouder Quebec.”

Mr. Legault’s re-election in 2022 is about as close as you can get to a sure thing in Canadian politics. And his plan to push ahead with the new course will certainly not hurt his chances.

Still, there is something deeply disturbing about the CAQ’s exploitation of Quebeckers’ cultural insecurity for political gain. It is one thing to express concern about the pernicious effects of cancel culture on democratic debate or the excesses of a multiculturalism that denies the existence of a core national identity. But it is quite another to depict critics of Bill 21 and the new citizenship course as an existential threat to the survival of the Quebec way of life, as Mr. Legault and his ministers do.

It almost makes you wonder whether Mr. Roberge even read his own op-ed.

Source: Opinion: Quebec and France join forces against cancel culture

Bloc leader’s threat to unleash ‘fires of hell’ over Quebec seat proposal might just backfire

Hard to have much sympathy for the “outrage” given the demographic decline reflects in part Quebec’s decision to admit fewer immigrants than elsewhere in Canada (despite or because they manage economic immigration) and the xenophobic Bill 21 and the weakening of bilingualism in Bill 96. Commentaries, starting with Konrad Yakabuski highlighting the consequences of lower immigration levels, and Randy Boswell’s more sympathetic take:
Le premier ministre de l’Ontario, Doug Ford, a suscité un tollé cette semaine lorsqu’il a livré un avertissement à tous ceux qui espèrent immigrer dans sa province, laquelle fait face à un manque criant de travailleurs puisque plus de 290 000 postes demeurent vacants. « Si vous pensez que vous pouvez venir ici pour toucher le B.S. et rester assis à la maison, ça n’arrivera pas », a martelé M. Ford lors d’un point de presse, se faisant immédiatement accuser d’exprimer tout haut ce que de nombreux Ontariens pensent tout bas. Si M. Ford a refusé de s’excuser pour ses propos, il s’est néanmoins empressé de se déclarer « pro-immigration » et de se vanter d’accueillir des immigrants de partout dans le monde au « Ford Fest », le barbecue estival que sa famille organise chaque année dans un quartier très multiculturel à Toronto. En effet, le gouvernement conservateur de M. Ford appuie sans réserve la hausse des seuils d’immigration annoncée l’an dernier par Ottawa, qui vise à accueillir 401 000 résidents permanents au pays en 2021, soit une augmentation de 18 % par rapport à 2019. Si le nombre d’immigrants a chuté en 2020 en raison de la pandémie, tombant à 184 000, le gouvernement fédéral presse le pas pour atteindre ses objectifs en matière d’immigration pour les années 2021, 2022 et 2023. En tout, ce sont plus de 1,2 million de nouveaux résidents permanents que le Canada compte accueillir pendant cette période, dépassant ainsi un ancien record qui date du début du XXe siècle. À lui seul, l’Ontario devrait accueillir plus de 540 000 nouveaux arrivants, ce qui pousserait sa population au-delà du seuil des 15 millions d’habitants. La politique d’immigration du Québec Quoi qu’on pense de la politique d’immigration du Québec, son résultat à long terme mènera vers une baisse du poids démographique de la province dans la fédération canadienne. La province compte accueillir entre 51 500 et 54 500 nouveaux immigrants cette année, si on inclut le « rattrapage » de 7000 nouveaux arrivants que le gouvernement caquiste prévoit d’effectuer après la baisse de 2020 liée à la fermeture des frontières. En 2019, durant la première année du gouvernement de François Legault, le Québec a reçu 40 565 nouveaux résidents permanents, ou seulement 11,89 % du total canadien. L’Alberta, qui compte la moitié moins d’habitants que le Québec, en a reçu 43 691, ou 12,81 % du total. L’Ontario a accueilli 153 395 nouveaux arrivants, ou 45 % des 341 000 nouveaux résidents permanents acceptés en 2019. Le Québec ne recevait déjà pas sa part d’immigrants en fonction de sa population au sein de la fédération canadienne avant l’arrivée de M. Legault au pouvoir. En 2016, quand le Québec comptait pour environ 23 % de la population canadienne, il avait reçu 18 % des immigrants arrivés au pays au cours de cette année-là. Il n’est pas impossible que ce taux atteigne les 10 % dans les prochaines années. En effet, les voix s’élèvent dans le reste du pays pour qu’Ottawa augmente ses seuils annuels d’immigration à 450 000 ou à 500 000 nouveaux arrivants. Un groupe d’influents Canadiens, réunis sous la bannière de l’Initiative du siècle, préconise une politique d’immigration visant à hausser la population canadienne à 100 millions de personnes en l’an 2100 afin de s’assurer de la prospérité nécessaire au maintien des programmes sociaux et d’augmenter l’influence du Canada sur la scène internationale. Le groupe, présidé par l’ancien chef de la direction du fonds d’investissement du Régime de pensions du Canada, Mark Wiseman, compte parmi ses membres le p.-d.g. du Conseil canadien des affaires, Goldy Hyder, et Dominique Barton, l’actuel ambassadeur du Canada en Chine. Il jouit aussi de l’appui de l’ancien premier ministre Brian Mulroney. Or, dans son discours inaugural prononcé cette semaine à l’Assemblée nationale, M. Legault a réaffirmé son refus aux « voix qui réclament un nombre toujours plus élevé d’immigrants ». Le Québec reçoit déjà plus d’immigrants que la plupart des pays développés, a-t-il dit, et il n’est pas question qu’il emboîte le pas au reste du pays. « Le Québec ne peut pas avoir le même modèle d’immigration que celui du Canada anglais. La survie du français exige une approche différente. » Ce choix n’est pas sans conséquences. Le directeur des élections du Canada, Stéphane Perreault, a annoncé la semaine dernière que le Québec doit perdre un siège à la Chambre des communes dès 2024, ce qui porterait le nombre de ses sièges à 77, selon une nouvelle répartition des sièges basée sur la formule de représentation prévue dans la Constitution. Les réactions à cette annonce n’ont pas tardé, le chef du Bloc québécois, Yves-François Blanchet, et la ministre caquiste des Relations canadiennes, Sonia LeBel, s’étant tous deux insurgés contre toute tentative de diminuer le poids du Québec au Parlement fédéral. Vendredi, M. Legault a lui-même sommé M. Trudeau de « préserver le poids de la nation québécoise à la Chambre des communes ». Toutefois, sans modification constitutionnelle, il semble inévitable que le Québec voie sa proportion de sièges à la Chambre des communes diminuer de façon importante au cours des prochaines décennies. Cette proportion est déjà tombée de 36 % des sièges en 1867 à 23 % en 2011. Selon la proposition de M. Perrault, elle glisserait encore à 22,5 %. Qu’en sera-t-il dans dix ans, alors que le reste du Canada s’apprête à accueillir de plus en plus d’immigrants pendant que le Québec referme davantage ses portes ?
Source: https://www.ledevoir.com/opinion/chroniques/642273/chronique-la-marginalisation?utm_source=infolettre-2021-10-23&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=infolettre-quotidienne
A proposed rejigging of Canada’s electoral map could see Quebec lose one of its seats in the House of Commons by 2024 while Alberta gains three and Ontario and B.C. each gain one.
The changes would increase the total number of federal ridings to 342 from 338. There are reasonable arguments for and against implementing the exact changes recommended by Elections Canada. But Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet’s opening salvo in the debate — that the BQ would “unleash the fires of hell” if his province’s seat count is dropped to 77 from 78 — is the wrong way to begin what needs to be a calm, cool conversation about updating the country’s political geography. How are we supposed to respond to Blanchet’s Trumpian explosion of outrage? Can thoughtful discussion follow a toddler’s tantrum?
Injecting apocalyptic rhetoric into a decision-making process that must be driven by the fundamental democratic principle of representation by population — and basic math — is precisely how to inflame prejudices, fuel interprovincial pettiness and polarize the nation. Blanchet, of course, knows this. Driving wedges wherever possible between Quebec and the rest of Canada is crucial, by definition, to the political project of any diehard separatist.
So we shouldn’t be too surprised that Blanchet has zeroed in histrionically on the planned removal of a single Quebec seat from the Commons as if it were a sign of the End Times. Although Elections Canada proposed the change for the benign reason that Quebec’s population is not growing at the same pace as the populations in Alberta, Ontario or B.C. — and because Quebec is (relative to those other big provinces) already more fairly represented in the current parliamentary seat count — Blanchet is invoking biblical imagery of the final battle between Good and Evil.
Sonia LeBel, Quebec’s minister responsible for relations with the rest of Canada, has employed more moderate language — and advanced a more compelling rationale — in urging special considerations for the province in the latest redistribution of federal ridings. “We are part of the founding peoples of Canada,” she said this week. “We have three seats guaranteed at the Supreme Court for judges. We have seats guaranteed in the Senate, a weight that is important and represents much more than just a simple calculation of population.” All of this is why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other political leaders interested in preserving the peace in our mostly peaceable kingdom need to rise above Blanchet’s blatant bullying while finding a sensible solution to the seat-count conundrum — one that delicately balances numerical fairness with other considerations endemic in a land of complexity and compromise. Remember: there’s no purely mathematical justification for granting a federal seat to each of Canada’s three territories — none of which has a population above 50,000 — when the average number of Canadians represented by each MP is more than 110,000. There’s no logical reason, either, for Prince Edward Island — with a mere 0.43 per cent of the national population of about 38 million — to have four seats representing 1.19 per cent of the elected positions in Parliament.
So there may well be legitimate reasons to avoid reducing Quebec’s seat count at this time. In 2011, the Conservative government of Stephen Harper implemented legislation that increased the number of seats to 338 from 308 to reflect population changes. At the time, the Harper government — with much prodding from Quebec, the BQ and other opposition parties — chose to inflate the overall size of the House of the Commons so that the number of Quebec seats would increase (by three, to 78) instead of remaining static at 75 — as an earlier, hotly rejected, purely mathematical proposal had called for. The government’s thinking at the time was that tweaking the formula for allocating seats in a way that would better recognize Quebec’s special status as a nation within the nation was politically prudent.
It also happened to keep the province’s seat total roughly proportional to its percentage of Canada’s population, even as those two numbers remained unfairly out of whack for faster-growing provinces.
The Quebec-friendly adjustment wasn’t immediately embraced by Harper’s own caucus. The additional Quebec seats, according to a Globe and Mail report at the time, “caused consternation among Conservative backbenchers, who were concerned that Canada’s French-speaking province was benefiting from a bill meant to address under-representation in the three large and fast-growing anglophone provinces” — Alberta, Ontario and B.C. Sound familiar? The Conservative caucus was ultimately convinced by Harper to accept the plan for the sake of national unity. But despite the Quebec-friendly compromise, the pre-Blanchet Bloc Québécois still slammed the 2011 reconfiguration of the House as falling short of true recognition of the province’s “unique status with regard to its political weight.” You can’t please everyone. As then-B.C. premier Christy Clark, who supported the 2011 changes, said at the time: “Perfection in these things is impossible because it’s a big and complicated country.” A decade later, the scenario confronting Elections Canada, the federal government and the provinces is much the same. And maybe a little massaging of the numbers to mollify Quebec is warranted yet again. Would it be so bad if Quebec kept its 78 seats and we had 343 federal ridings instead of 342? That would represent about 22.7 per cent of the seats in the House for a province with about 22.6 per cent of Canada’s population. (Meanwhile, Ontario’s proposed 122 seats would then account for 35.6 per cent of 343 seats for a province with almost 39 per cent of the country’s population.)
But Blanchet’s bluster about unleashing the “fires of hell” risks torching the good will required for the rest of Canada to grant Quebec some latitude in its allotment of seats in the national legislature. It’s the kind of talk that’s more likely to unleash cynicism and stinginess. And eventually, if population trends continue in the current direction, maintaining Quebec’s present share of federal seats as its population drifts towards one-fifth of Canada’s total will become untenable from a democratic point of view — Blanchet’s fires of hell notwithstanding. Randy Boswell is a Carleton University journalism professor and former Postmedia News national writer.
Source: Bloc leader’s threat to unleash ‘fires of hell’ over Quebec seat proposal might just backfire

Yakabuski: Four years after the Quebec mosque tragedy, the Bloc Québécois Leader has learned nothing

Indeed:

Four years ago this week, a disturbed young man walked into a Quebec City mosque and opened fire, killing six people, wounding another eight and forever shattering the blissful innocence of an otherwise peaceful and tolerant community, province and country.

In the immediate aftermath of the slaughter at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec, then-premier Philippe Couillard called on the political class to proceed cautiously in the debate over secularism that many felt had unfairly targeted Quebec’s growing Muslim community.

“Words spoken, words written as well, are not trivial,” Mr. Couillard said. “It is up to us to choose them.”

After all, there is a fine line between defending the secularism of the state – the purported objective of the previous Parti Québécois government’s ill-fated Charter of Quebec Values – and stigmatizing members of a religious minority to win the votes of a nationalist Québécois for whom the protection of their province’s cultural distinctness has been a lifelong preoccupation.

No matter how legitimate the desire of some Quebec politicians to keep religion out of the public sphere – a desire informed by the province’s long struggle to break the stranglehold of the Catholic Church on state institutions – too many of them had succumbed to the temptation of raising the bogeyman of Islamization to win votes among pure laine Quebeckers.

In his infinite smugness, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet continues to demonstrate that he has learned nothing about the dangers of resorting to the kind of demagoguery that Mr. Couillard warned against in the wake of 2017′s fatal events. His refusal this week, of all weeks, to apologize for his smearing of Liberal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra is too serious an infringement of the basic rules of Canadian and Quebec politics to ignore.

Mr. Blanchet embarked on this slippery slope two weeks ago by dredging up old innuendo about Mr. Alghabra’s “proximity” to Islamic extremists in a press release following the Mississauga-Centre MP’s appointment to the federal cabinet. Saying he refused “to accuse anyone,” Mr. Blanchet nevertheless went on to point to “questions” about Mr. Alghabra’s association with “the Islamic political movement, of which he was a leader for several years.”

If there were any doubts about Mr. Alghabra’s alleged coddling of extremists, they were dispelled years ago. Before going into politics, he briefly led a mainstream organization, the Canadian Arab Federation, that, under a subsequent president, veered in a radical direction. Any attempt by Mr. Blanchet to associate Mr. Alghabra with positions taken by the CAF after his stint as president amounts to engaging in guilt by association and, frankly, sleazy politics.

Former PQ leader Jean-François Lisée nevertheless leapt to Mr. Blanchet’s defence, arguing, in a column in Le Devoir, that Mr. Alghabra had demonstrated a “leniency toward [Hamas] that warrants clarification.” Mr. Lisée provided no evidence of said leniency. But then again, what do you expect from a former politician who, in 2016, argued for a ban on burkas in public because terrorists in Africa had “been proven” to hide AK-47s under such clothing.

Mr. Blanchet was given an opportunity this week to withdraw his previous comments and apologize to Mr. Alghabra. He chose to dig himself into an even deeper hole. “The question I raised in an absolutely polite and courteous manner was based on articles in Le Journal de Montréal, Le Journal de Québec and the very torontois and not very indépendantiste Globe and Mail,” he told reporters. “Quebeckers have concerns on questions of secularism and security.”

The newspaper columns and article Mr. Blanchet referenced only served to prove the baselessness of the “questions” about Mr. Alghabra he sought to raise. Unfortunately, besides a few curious journalists, he knows most people will not bother to check. And in the online echo chamber, where baseless innuendo is the bitcoin of political debate, Mr. Blanchet’s “questions” about an upstanding MP and Liberal cabinet minister take on a life of their own.

It is no mystery why the Bloc Leader resorted to smearing Mr. Alghabra as his party prepares to defend a slew of narrowly-won ridings in a federal election expected later this year. The Bloc, which remains nominally supportive of Quebec independence, portrays Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and their devotion to multiculturalism as a threat to Quebec’s cultural survival. Raising doubts about Mr. Alghabra’s political views serves to plant the seeds of fear and intolerance among a subset of Quebec voters for whom the details do not matter much.

While it is quite legitimate to bemoan the excesses of Liberal multiculturalism – epitomized by Mr. Trudeau’s 2015 inanity about Canada having no core identity – it is quite another to seek to scapegoat religious minorities for political purposes. Mr. Blanchet crossed the line. That he did so on the eve of such a painful anniversary for Quebec’s Muslims says quite a lot about him.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-four-years-after-the-quebec-mosque-tragedy-the-bloc-quebecois-leader/