Tuesday, August 14, 2007

PQ wants full immigration control for Quebec

From the Gazette:

Quebec should have total control over its immigration to send a clear message to newcomers that the province is a francophone state, not a bilingual one, Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois said on Tuesday[...]

Marois believes Quebec needs to attract more immigrants, especially to cope with a declining birthrate and employment needs, but she stressed the province has to send a very clear message to those who decide to settle in Quebec.

"Many of them believe that they are settling in a bilingual state. It's not true. Quebec is a francophone state that respects the rights of its anglophone minority. And when you live in Quebec, you live in French," Marois stated.

She pressed Premier Jean Charest to negotiate with the federal government to gain control over the 40 per cent of immigrants to the province that it does not already handle. Under a 1991 agreement, Quebec can choose the immigrants who have money to invest here and decide how it integrates them. But Ottawa keeps dealing with refugees and immigrants coming to reunite with family members.

Marois argued it's fair to ask for that since Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government recognized Quebec as a nation. Having additional powers would allow Quebec to choose immigrants that will more easily blend into Quebec's culture and values, Marois added.

That last bit is a clever if probably-inevitable reverse-judo attempt. Harper defanged the "nation" question by embracing the word; the PQ can't afford to let that be as free of consequences as Harper would like it to be.

Notice that the PQ is not only playing to traditional themes here. It's also trying to recapture the part of its base that it lost to the anti-immigrant ADQ in the last election-- partly by playing on a subtle distancing between Montreal and the rest of Quebec. Montreal is clearly ground zero of bilingualism in the province, as well as being ground zero of the non-francophone new immigration. The ADQ objects to Montreal as a place and the new immigrants as a group, though language isn't its primary issue. If the PQ can pick up on the rural voters' annoyance at immigrant-heavy Montreal, it may not much matter whether the annoyance is cast as a language issue rather than a religion or race issue. This will be a tricky balance for the traditionally Montreal-francophone-elite centered PQ, but is absolutely necessary for them to figure it out.