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Asylum seekers, claiming to be from Turkey, cross the border from New York into Canada on March 8, 2017 in Hemmingford, Que.

The Canadian Press

Ottawa has calculated that it will boost its annual immigration transfers to Quebec by about $50-million this year, even as the two governments are negotiating a large reduction in the province’s annual intake numbers, federal officials said.

Quebec Premier François Legault has promised to reduce immigration to Quebec in 2019 by 20 per cent, down to 40,000 people. Still, as Quebec Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette recently told reporters, federal transfers for immigration “can never go down.”

Under the Canada-Quebec immigration deal signed in 1991, federal funding to Quebec is not linked to the number of immigrants that come to the province every year or the province’s share of immigrants to Canada. Instead, the money goes up in line with the overall increase in the federal budget and the rise in the arrival of non-francophone immigrants in Quebec.

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Based on this formula, federal immigration transfers to Quebec have been rising quickly. In 2008-2009, the funding stood at $226-million. By the most recent fiscal year of 2017-18, the transfers reached $490-million, up by $112-million over the previous year.

For the current fiscal year of 2018-19, federal officials estimate the transfers will go up by another $50-million, meaning they will reach approximately $540-million (or $13,500 for each newcomer).

Quebec has an added challenge in settling immigrants because many don’t arrive speaking French, but there is no doubt it receives more money per newcomer than other provinces under this deal. For the coming year, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada plans to spend a total of $1.8-billion for the selection and integration of some 330,000 immigrants and refugees (or $5,500 a person).

The duelling trends in Quebec of increased funding and lower immigration targets are making for complex negotiations these days between the federal and provincial governments, said five officials on both sides of the talks who were not authorized to speak publicly about the negotiations.

One issue is that Ottawa is in charge of two streams of immigration in Quebec, family reunifications and refugees, while Quebec oversees economic immigration into the province. In the early stages of negotiations, a key issue is which streams of newcomers will be slowed to fulfill the province’s reduction goals, with Quebec hoping the drop will occur largely on the federal side.

Federal officials, however, said they are not keen to reduce family reunifications, under which immigrants can bring their spouses or parents to Canada. If the numbers in that category were reduced in Quebec, immigrants in the province would have to wait much longer to bring in family members than those in the rest of Canada. In addition, federal officials said that taking in refugees is part of Canada’s international obligations, but also popular in all parts of the country.

For 2018, the previous Quebec Liberal government planned to welcome between 49,000 and 53,000 immigrants, including about 25,000 qualified workers, 4,000 business investors, 12,000 family members, and 8,000 refugees and asylum seekers.

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The new Quebec government will officially unveil its immigration targets for 2019 in coming weeks. Mr. Legault promised in September, during an election campaign, to bring down the number to 40,000, which he said would improve the way that newcomers are integrated into Quebec.

For now, the federal Liberals are trying to avoid a public battle with the Coalition Avenir Québec, holding a series of confidential talks in the hopes of coming to a deal.

”The federal government and the Quebec government have a long history of co-operation on immigration, and we will continue to work together,” federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said in a statement.

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