one-armed federalism

Sometimes Canada makes you want to chew your arm off in frustration. A new study from the IRPP about immigration in Quebec has left me a limb short.

Begin with the facts, which the authors say paint a “bleak portrait” of the situation of immigrants in the labour market in Quebec, most especially Montreal. Despite the fact that most of them are chosen based on their professional qualifications or skills, the unemployment rate for immigrants who have been in the province for less than five years is 17.8 percent – triple the rate for Quebecers born in Canada.

One of the big problems, argue the authors, is that the policies and programs aimed at integrating immigrants into the workforce have a very limited impact, for three main reasons: incoherent and disjointed program design; a failure to focus on the demand-side of the labour equation; and underfunding which “severely limits access to the most effective programs available” leading to “over-restrictive elibigility criteria”.

Italics mine.

To put it bluntly, the programs aren’t very well-designed for the labour market, and the ones that do work are so underfunded hardly anyone (2 000 out of 26 000) can get access to them. So the obvious direction to go is to improve program coordination, and put more money into the good ones.

Easier said than done, sure. But check this out:

The authors point to widespread underfunding of integration programs. They note that the federal government’s total transfer to Quebec for immigration exceeds the budget of the Ministry of Immigration and Cultural Communities (MICC) by $70 million. The MICC budget has increased only slowly over the years, while Quebec has been receiving growing numbers of immigrants each year.


In tabling its 2008-09 budget, the Quebec government announced that it would increase funding for immigration support by $20 million over two years and that this amount would be focused on labour market integration and apprenticeship programs. The government also announced that a larger portion — but not all — of the federal financial transfer earmarked for immigration would be given to MICC.

Welcome to Canada. Go chew your arm off.

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