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The Parti Québécois’ new immigration policy announced Tuesday would set a goal of having one-quarter of all new immigrants settle outside the Montreal area and would force potential newcomers to pass a French test before they arrived in the province.

PQ leader Jean-François Lisée said his plan would better integrate newcomers and prevent more of them from leaving the province for other parts of Canada, encourage immigrants to live outside Montreal and respond to Quebec’s labour shortage.

If the PQ wins the Oct. 1 provincial election, it would try to reverse the trend that sees 90 per cent of all newcomers to Quebec move to the Montreal area, Mr. Lisée said.

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The plan would also seek to ensure newcomers speak French by forcing them to pass a test before they get on Quebec soil, Mr. Lisée said.

“We are more frank about the conditions for success,” he told reporters. “The people who come here and can’t speak French are either unemployed, or they leave [for other provinces], therefore, they waste their time and ours.”

Both the PQ and the Coalition Avenir Quebéc said the Liberals’ policies have led to high unemployment levels among immigrants and a failure of newcomers to speak adequate French.

The topic of immigration and the integration of newcomers is shaping up to become a major issue for the fall election.

Mr. Lisée presented figures Tuesday indicating that for the period of 2014-17, between 30 and 45 per cent of immigrants who arrived in Quebec left for other parts of Canada.

Moreover, 60 per cent of immigrants to Quebec during the same period didn’t speak French and only 40 per cent of those took French courses.

Quebec selects its newcomers based on a point system and Mr. Lisée said a PQ government would offer more points to potential immigrants who qualify for a job outside the metropolis.

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Mr. Lisée added that newcomers would still be given extra points even if they didn’t qualify for a job in the outlying regions, but showed an intention to settle there.

“Our objective is for [immigrants] not to pass through Montreal, but go directly to the place where they have a job,” Mr. Lisée said.

What he called the Liberal strategy of “letting them stay in Montreal – that doesn’t work.”

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