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Quebec business groups ask new premier for action on labour shortage

The victory of François Legault’s election campaign has some economists concerned over the prospect of continued labour shortages in Quebec.

The leader of the Coalition Avenir Québec won in a landslide victory Monday on a platform of combating inflation, income tax cuts and French-language preservation.

The economy needs to be a central issue for the premier's new mandate as the province faces labour shortages and inflation, said Karl Blackburn, president of business group Conseil du patronat du Québec.

Earlier this month, the Chamber of Commerce for Metropolitan Montreal released a list of five priorities for the city's business community. The first is that the provincial government act quickly to address labour shortages.

Not enough employees mean businesses may turn down contracts, and small and medium business owners may be have to more hours said François Vincent, head of Quebec operations at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

That can have significant consequences, echoed Stephen Brown, senior Canada economist at Capital Economics.

“If a company is choosing between opening a new factory, say, in Ontario, or Quebec, they're more likely to choose Ontario, because they know they will have greater confidence to actually be able to find the workers to staff that factory," he said.

There are several reasons for Quebec’s labour shortages, however, it is the province's aging population that contributes most to the shortage, said Blackburn.

All sectors, from finance to construction to health care, have been impacted by labour shortages, he said.

Many economists see higher immigration numbers as a way to fill the labour shortfall.

On the campaign trail, Legault spoke frequently about immigration, often claiming that welcoming too many immigrants would put the survival of the French language in the province at risk.

However, Moshe Lander a senior lecturer in economics at Concordia University, said that immigration compliments the labour force and makes for a more efficient economy.

The policy appears to counter that of Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, said Brown, where the provinces have had a greater push for migration of Canadians and immigrants.

"It's not just about people coming into Canada, it's also, can you attract people from other provinces," said Brown.

According to Statistics Canada, job vacancies in Quebec rose 2.4 per cent in the second quarter from the first, and there were not enough unemployed people to fill every vacancy in the province.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 4, 2022.

Caitlin Yardley, The Canadian Press