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Quebec’s new immigration policy aimed at meeting labour needs

Quebec Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil announces the province's new immigration initiatives at a news conference, Monday, March 7, 2016 in Montreal.

Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Quebec government has a new immigration policy with ambitious objectives to cut wait times by up to 80 per cent and get more skilled immigrants targeted to job openings.

Many details of how the government will meet those difficult goals remain to be ironed out as the new policy is enacted over five years at a cost of $42-million.

Kathleen Weil, the Quebec Immigration Minister, said the province risks falling behind global rivals and the rest of Canada if it does not speed up integration.

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Ottawa streamlined its selection process in 2014.

The demographic crunch looming for many Canadian provinces is already under way in Quebec as its population ages. Last year, the province's work force began to shrink.

Ms. Weil said Quebec will need 1.4 million new workers by 2022, and at least 18 per cent of them will have to come from immigration.

"The handicap we have is delays," Ms. Weil said. "The job market is evolving constantly and we need to get better at meeting those needs."

Quebec wants to reduce the current immigration waiting time to six months from one-to-four years.

Ms. Weil wants better recognition of foreign credentials and to keep more of the foreign students who study in Quebec.

Quebec will set new immigration targets in the spring, after the federal government establishes national numbers later this week.

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Quebec and Ottawa share responsibility for immigration in the province, giving Ms. Weil's government a big say on target numbers and and selection criteria.

The refugee process that has brought some 4,000 Syrians to the Montreal region in recent months runs separately from the immigration policy in Monday's announcement.

Some 90 per cent of refugees in Montreal are privately sponsored.

Support group operators say sponsors are having trouble keeping up with demand for housing and employment in a few cases. But Ms. Weil said she is pleased with the integration process so far.

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