Economy

Canadian town once wary of immigrants sends out global labor SOS by Stocksak

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© Stocksak. Manuela Teixeira, who runs six businesses in Old Chelsea village, stands at the counter of her cafe Biscotti & Cie, which she says faces a dire labor shortage, in Old Chelsea, Quebec, Canada, October 3, 2022. REUTERS/Julie Gordon

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By Julie Gordon and Allison Lampert

OTTAWA/MONTREAL – Herouxville was a small town in Canada’s Quebec that published a code of conduct 15 years ago. It advised would-be immigrants not to stone women or burn their bodies alive and to cover their faces only at Halloween.

It’s actively seeking new arrivals in 2022.

The town council’s fear of accepting immigrants at the expense its French-speaking Quebec identity is gone. Instead, it is now more concerned about the need for more families to fill its schools and jobs.

Herouxville now wants its inclusion to be a brand. It is looking at subsidized housing as a way to attract more immigrants.

Bernard Thompson, mayor in the central Quebec town of 1,300, stated that a new family is welcome from any country. “The rural areas are in dire need of our help.”

Herouxville’s outreach is part of a larger dilemma facing Canada, Quebec, and other countries to varying degrees. Governments from London, Washington, Canberra, and Tokyo are trying to balance public and private pressures to curb immigration and combat crippling labor shortages.

The staff crunch is a result of aging populations, a rise in workers retiring, COVID travel, and business chaos. These are just some of the factors that have impacted low-paid and skilled occupations from transport and agriculture to hospitality and manufacturing.

According to the latest OECD data, Canada has the worst labor shortages of any country in the West. This is according to the data as of late 2021. The problem has been made worse by the record number of retirements this year. The situation is particularly acute in rural Quebec, where many newcomers prefer to stay in Montreal.

The most recent Canadian census data gives new numbers to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s drive to increase immigration to plug the skills and staff gap, which economists say is driving up wages and threatening to reduce productivity.

Statistics Canada released Wednesday’s census, showing that immigrants now account for 23%, up from 21.9% in 2016. The Census also showed that newcomers account to 80% of Canada’s labor force growth in the past five years.

The census also shows a picture of urban landings. With more than 90% of recent immigrants living in cities, smaller towns and rural areas struggle to attract newcomers who can replace aging factory workers, grocery clerks, and doctors.

QUEBEC’S IMMIGRANT CAP

Quebec, a province largely fluent in French, resists change more than any other Canadian province. The new data revealed that only 14.6% of the 8.3 million residents were born abroad, which is well below the national average.

The Coalition Avenir Quebec government won re-election this month. They pledged to limit permanent immigration to 50,000 per annum to protect the region’s language, culture, and heritage. Despite Canada’s immigration rising 49% since Trudeau’s Liberals assumed office in late 2015, the level of immigration has remained constant at this level for many years.

Francois Legault, Quebec Premier has described immigrants in Quebec as a source to wealth. However, he has also said that allowing more people into Quebec without ensuring they speak French is “suicidal”.

Legault, however, extended an olive branch of support to immigrants last week by setting up a cabinet that included a trilingual minister for immigration and a Black antiracism minister.

Quebec’s Immigration Ministry didn’t respond on a query about the labor challenges and arrival caps for this article.

Economic reality is becoming more difficult.

Quebec had 246,300 job vacancies and only 185,000. Unemployed people as of July 2022. The region’s manufacturing industry association estimates that the labor shortage has cost them C$18 million ($13 billion) over two years.

“Our labor force participation in Quebec is under greater pressure than elsewhere because we are not seeing foreign workers to replace the retiring,” said Jimmy Jean (chief economist at Desjardins Group, Montreal).

Jean stated that he expected Quebec’s government to respond to pressure from businesses to raise their immigration cap. Jean also warned that the province could be left behind economically by Ontario and other large Canadian provinces, such as Alberta and British Columbia.

CODE ‘A HISTICAL DOCUMENT’

Quebec’s rural communities are suffering the most from the lack of migrant pull power compared to diverse Montreal, which is facing deep labor shortages.

Local authorities have taken it upon themselves to extend the red carpet to all newcomers in Herouxville, which has long since abandoned its code for dealing with immigrants.

Mayor Thompson stated that the code was unanimously approved in 2007 by the town council and consigned to the archives in 2010 by the council he leads since 2009.

He said, “It wasn’t a legal document… it is now an historical document.” “It’s been a while since the citizens and my community put this episode aside.”

Indeed, the Mauricie region is actively seeking immigrants. Villages have set up committees to help newcomers find housing and halal food.

Nearby Shawinigan, which is home to 50,000 residents, encourages immigrants to visit lumberjack villages, take part in activities such as curling, and send their children to summer camps for the Canadian wilderness experience. Another campaign put immigrant faces onto buses.

After moving to Canada in the midst of the pandemic, Walid gasmi now works in St. Tite as a metal worker at Acier Rayco. Gasmi, like many of his Algerian friends, prefers bustling Montreal. However, he loves the opportunities that St. Tite offers, which is known for its annual Western Festival.

“Here, you give people a chance: They train them; invest in human resources,” said he.

Eric St-Laurent, President of Acier Rayco, stated that he has enough work to hire six additional people and that he would happily accept qualified immigrants to fill the open positions even if they don’t speak French at all. “It’s no major problem for us.”

Quebec seems to have had some success in encouraging French-speaking immigrants with its immigration caps. According to census data, 28.7% more recent immigrants to Quebec spoke French as their first or second language in 2016 than 25.7%.

However, most newcomers to the province still refer to a foreign language in their native tongue.

Éva-Marie Nagy-Cloutier, human resource coordinator at snowblower maker Les Machineries Pronovost in St. Tite, is similarly flexible on language, but said new arrivals need support.

She said that when company workers arrived from Tunisia during COVID-19 and had to be isolated, the town rallied to provide supplies.

A TEMPORARY FIRE

Quebec’s factories are booming and the manufacturers feel the province should follow other provinces to increase its supply of skilled permanent residents.

Since 2015, new permanent immigration has remained essentially flat, so the province has relied on temporary foreign workers for its vacancies. Permits up 163.9% during the same period.

These temporary workers are now an important source of work for many employers. Signs advertising “Help needed” are found in many shops and restaurants throughout the Outaouais area of Quebec.

Manuela Teixeira moved from Portugal to Canada as a child. She now runs six businesses in Old Chelsea.

It’s hard to fill service jobs after COVID lockdowns, which led many workers to leave for other industries, and it’s work that cannot be automated, she said.

She said that the French language must be protected as it is part of the country’s richness. “But I don’t think we should fear people who come to the country from abroad.

News Source and Credit

Stocksak Editorial

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