Under fire from the higher education and business communities for his immigration reforms, Quebec Premier Francois Legault pointed Thursday to the positive reviews of his government’s plan received on his Facebook page.
The Coalition Avenir Quebec government has been hit with widespread criticism for a reform that would have considerably reduced the number of foreign students eligible for a fast-track immigration program.
The heat forced Legault and Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette to partially backtrack Wednesday, allowing foreign students already in the province to continue having access to the program.
But the new restrictive rules will go ahead as expected for future participants as the province attempts to address labour shortages by targeting specific fields where workers are needed.
Opposition parties have pointed to a lengthy list of economic organizations, junior colleges and universities that opposed the changes.
On Thursday, Legault, Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon and Labour Minister Jean Boulet were unable to name a single economic ally in favour of the government’s reforms.
“It’s pretty ironic when we see a government presenting itself as a government of the economy that’s unable to have support for its reform,” interim Liberal Leader Pierre Arcand said during question period.
Legault told reporters cited comments on his Facebook page to justify the changes.
“If you look on my Facebook for example, 90 per cent of the people agree with what we are doing,” he said. He also noted he has support from Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who was “absolutely in favour of our approach.”
The premier also called out some of his critics, including the president of the Montreal Chamber of Commerce and university and junior college administrators.
Legault said chamber president Michel Leblanc wants more immigrants because they represent cheap labour to the companies in his association. The premier said that in contrast to Leblanc, he is “working for all Quebecers.”
Legault’s comments came after a difficult Wednesday on the immigration front for his government.
Opposition politicians were able to take advantage of a misstep by Legault’s government to adopt a motion calling on the government to rescind the immigration plan altogether. The motion moved by the Opposition Liberals passed when the Coalition Avenir Quebec didn’t have enough members in the chamber.
While the motion isn’t binding, it was another slap against the Legault government, which lost the vote despite holding 75 of the 125 seats in the national assembly.
Legault said the government had no intention of heeding the opposition motion.
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