Quebec Liberal MNA Dominique Anglade has outlined three conditions that must be met in order for her party to support Bill 9.
Jacques Boissinot / THE CANADIAN PRESS
QUEBEC — Premier François Legault says he doesn’t like the idea of invoking closure to adopt the government’s controversial bill reforming the immigration system, Bill 9.With the clock ticking to the summer recess of the National Assembly and with CAQ ministers and the Liberal opposition heaping the blame on each other for the fact the bill is stalled, Legault was asked if he is prepared to get tough and suspend the normal rules of parliament and force the bill through without support of other parties.“We don’t like that,” Legault told reporters arriving for daily question period. “I never liked that.”He then opened the door to the bill possibly not being adopted before the summer, a scenario he said is not “ideal,” because it will mean Quebec companies suffering from labour shortages will have to wait even longer for more immigrant workers.He said he lives in hope Bill 9 and another controversial piece of legislation, Bill 21 on secularism, will pass normally. It also is stuck at the committee level even though the government wants to get it over and done with fast.Legault’s comments capped a day where the Coalition Avenir Québec government and Liberal opposition party blamed each other for Quebec’s stalled immigration legislation, Bill 9.“We don’t operate under threats, and I won’t operate under threats,” Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette told reporters.“The Liberal blockade (on this bill) has gone on long enough. Today we got threats from Dominique Anglade (the Liberal MNA on the committee), who said if her three conditions are not fulfilled they will block.“I am asking the MNAs (on the committee) to act seriously,” Jolin-Barrette said, adding that the “fooling around” with the bill has to stop.Jolin-Barrette insisted he has worked in good faith during legislative hearings into the bill and accepted amendments from the Liberals and Québec solidaire.But he noted that after almost 26 hours of work at the committee examining the legislation, only six articles in the 21-article bill have been approved.And the most contentious one, Article 20 — which would allow the government to shred whatever remains of 18,000 immigration applications stuck in the system — has not been touched.“I think anyone following the work of the committee would find the Liberal Party’s behaviour during the exchanges reprehensible,” Jolin-Barrette said.But Anglade told reporters moments earlier that the government has yet to answer key questions about the bill, and that the Liberals will not be railroaded.Anglade outlined three conditions for the Liberals to support the bill.The government must fully process the 18,000 files in the system; abolish clauses of the bill making permanent residence status conditional on the passing of a Quebec values test; and scrap clauses that increase the administrative burden of companies.She denied Jolin-Barrette’s accusation the Liberals are deliberately blocking the bill.“We believe there are elements that are positive in the bill,” Anglade told reporters. “It’s just that there are elements that are very detrimental, and we would like to get rid of them.”Anglade said many bills in fact take longer to adopt, some needing as many as 150 hours of committee work.“I think it’s the government that lacks time,” Anglade said. “It’s easy to say it’s the obstruction of the opposition, but in reality 26 hours does not even compare to what we’ve seen in any other bill of this magnitude.”Bill 9 has been mired in trouble from the get-go. While it proposes to streamline the notoriously slow immigration application system, it also includes a clause to shred 18,000 files that are in the system already and to ask applicants to start over using the new Arrima system, which is supposed to match workers with jobs.In February, that plan was derailed after a Quebec judge, acting at the request of Quebec’s association of immigration lawyers, ordered Jolin-Barrette to process the files even during the time it takes to adopt Bill 9.Anglade said she has tried to get an update on how that process is going, and that she has been told the ministry is processing about 600 a month.She said the problem now is that the government’s rejection rate has soared from 50 per cent before the bill was tabled to 85 per firstname.lastname@example.org/philipauthier