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Quebec wants to throw out 18,000 skilled-worker applications as part of immigration overhaul





The Coalition Avenir Québec government is planning to throw out a backlog of 18,000 applications from skilled workers who want to come to Quebec and make a host of other changes to the province’s immigration laws, emphasizing French language skills and regional labour needs.

In tabling Bill 9 Thursday, Quebec’s Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette said the goal of the proposed legislation is to start fresh with a more “personalized” policy that addresses the worker shortage.

“We want to give the chance for anybody from anywhere around the world to come to Quebec, but what we say is: come work in Quebec, but you will have to learn French and have the knowledge of Quebec values to be there forever,” Jolin-Barrette said at a news conference.

At one point, he described the province’s new approach as the “Tinder of immigration,” a reference to the popular dating app.

He described Quebec’s current system as first come, first served, instead of being based on the needs of the labour market.

“Now we are changing that. We are taking the profile of the candidate with the jobs that we need. So we make a match.”

Bill 9 includes an amendment to the Quebec Immigration Act to “clarify” its goals, including ensuring that immigrants learn French and integrate the “democratic values and the Quebec values expressed by the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.”

It also gives the immigration minister the power to impose conditions on “foreign nationals” seeking permanent residency status, to ensure they are meeting, among other things, regional labour needs, as well as the province’s “linguistic, social or economic integration.”

The bill doesn’t, however, offer specifics on how that would be done. Experts have questioned whether a values test, one of the Coalition Avenir Québec’s key campaign pledges in the last election, would be legal under Canadian law.

Watch Jolin-Barrette explain his proposed changes to immigration:

Quebec’s immigration minister says the goal of Bill 9 is to make a more ‘personalized’ policy that addresses the worker shortage, instead of dealing with applicants in the order that they applied. 0:26

Applicants to get their money back

Under the bill, titled, “An Act to increase Quebec’s socio-economic prosperity and adequately meet labour market needs through successful immigrant integration,” any application prior to Aug. 2, 2018 will be made void. 

The 18,000 applicants still waiting for an answer — some of whom applied as long ago as 2005 — will have the cost of their applications reimbursed, at a total cost of roughly $19 million, Jolin-Barrette said.

Liberal immigration critic Dominique Anglade said the cancellation of thousands of skilled worker applications would hurt Quebec’s image on the international stage.

“The message from the government is extremely negative,” she said. 

The bill still needs to be voted into law by the National Assembly, where the CAQ hold a majority of seats.

The CAQ’s pledges to cut back on the number of immigrants and to introduce a values test for new arrivals were a centrepiece of last fall’s election campaign.

The government already tabled a plan last December to reduce the number of immigrants Quebec accepts this year to 40,000, down from more than 50,000 last year.

The immigration cuts have raised concerns from businesses that are already dealing with a labour shortage.

Quebec’s unemployment rate reached a historic low of 6.1 per cent last year.

Questions about ‘Quebec values’

The changes proposed Thursday were welcomed by a number of lobby groups, including the Conseil du patronat du Québec.

Yves-Thomas Dorval, the head of the employers group, said his organization is pleased to see the province put greater emphasis on the “needs of the labour market,” particularly outside of large cities. 

Bienvenue à NDG’s director, Luis Miguel Cristancho, says scrapping 18,000 immigrant applications will be devastating for many. (CBC)

However, Luis Miguel Cristancho, executive director of  Bienvenue à Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, a non-profit agency that helps newcomers integrate into the western Montreal neighbourhood, said simply jettisoning 18,000 immigrant applications will be devastating for many of those people who have waited years for an answer from Quebec.

As for other parts of the bill, Cristancho said he’s still trying to find out what the changes will mean for new arrivals.

He welcomed any additional resources that would help newcomers integrate, to make sure they are ready to enter the work force, especially if they settle outside Montreal.

But he said he wants to know more about how the CAQ government’s plans to ensure immigrants adopt “Quebec values.”


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Ottawa unveils funding for poultry and egg farmers hurt by free-trade deals





Canadian egg and poultry farmers who’ve lost domestic market share due to two recent free-trade agreements will soon have access to $691 million in federal cash, Canada’s agriculture minister announced Saturday.

Marie-Claude Bibeau shared details of the long-awaited funds in a virtual news conference.

“Today we position our young farmers for growth and success tomorrow,” she said.

The money follows a previously announced $1.75 billion for the dairy sector linked to free-trade deals with Europe and countries on the Pacific Rim, one that came into effect in 2017 and the other in 2018.

The dairy sector funds were to flow over eight years, and the first $345 million payment was sent out last year.

But on Saturday, Bibeau announced a schedule for the remaining payments that will see the money flow over three years — beginning with $468 million in 2020-21, $469 million in 2021-22 and $468 million in 2022-23.

Bibeau said the most recently announced funds for dairy farmers amount to an average farm of 80 cows receiving a direct payment of $38,000 in the first year.

Payments based on formulas

David Wiens, vice-president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada, said the money will help farms make investments for the future.

“I think particularly for the younger farmers who have really struggled since these agreements have been ratified, they can actually now see opportunities, how they can continue to make those investments on the farm so that they can continue on,” he said.

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Employee of Ottawa Metro store tests positive for COVID-19





Metro says an employee of its grocery store on Beechwood Avenue in Ottawa has tested positive for COVID-19.

The company says the employee’s positive test result was reported on Nov. 25. The employee had last been at work at the Metro at 50 Beechwood Ave. on Nov. 19.

Earlier this month, Metro reported several cases of COVID-19 at its warehouse on Old Innes Road.

Positive test results were reported on Nov. 2, Nov. 6, Nov. 11, and Nov. 19. The first two employees worked at the produce warehouse at 1184 Old Innes Rd. The other two worked at the distribution centre at the same address.

Metro lists cases of COVID-19 in employees of its stores and warehouses on its website

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Tinseltown: Where 50-year-old ‘tough guys’ become youngsters again





Audy Czigler wears glitter like a Pennsylvania miner wears coal dust. It’s on his face and hands, in his hair and on his clothing. It’s an occupational hazard that he says he just can’t get rid of.

And when he’s sifting through job applications from people wanting to work at his Tinseltown Christmas Emporium on Somerset Street W. in Hintonburg, the glitter is a consideration. For he’s not looking for people who can simply endure it; no, he’s screening for people who revel and carouse in glitter, for those for whom the 10,000th playing of I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus is as refreshing as the first, for those who believe that the 12 days of Christmas last 365 days a year. The believers.

Sure, he has heard the voices of skeptical passersby on the sidewalk outside his shop, especially in the summer months when visions of sugarplums have receded from many people’s minds.

“I hear them out there a few times a day,” he says, “wondering how a Christmas store can possibly survive year-round.

“I want to go out and tell them,” he adds, but his voice trails off as a customer approaches and asks about an ornament she saw there recently, of a red cardinal in a white heart. Where is it?

There’s scant room for sidewalk skeptics now, crowded out by the dozens of shoppers who, since October, have regularly lined up outside the store, patiently biding their time (and flocks) as pandemic-induced regulations limit the shop to 18 customers at a time.

Once inside, visitors will be forgiven for not first noticing the glitter, or even the rendition of Baby, It’s Cold Outside playing on the speakers. For there’s no specific “first thing” you notice. The first thing you notice is EVERYTHING — a floor-to-ceiling cornucopia of festivity, reminiscent perhaps of how the blind man in the Gospel of John may have felt when Jesus rubbed spit and mud in his eyes and gave him sight for the first time.

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