QUEBEC — It will be easier for more qualified workers to immigrate to Quebec once the National Assembly adopts a sweeping three-part reform, Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil said on Wednesday.

The minister introduced Bill 77, a piece of legislation essentially dusting off Quebec’s 47-year-old immigration act. She said the bill constitutes the first part of her reform.

“Competition is fierce among immigration countries,” Weil said. “Quebec’s competitiveness and attractiveness are being called into question in this race for strategic talents.”

Public hearings last winter found that Quebec’s bureaucratic, plodding system was not helping it stay competitive. From 2009 to 2011, the province received almost 100,000 immigration applications, way more than it could possibly accept or process.

Weil said she will try to slash wait times, from three years to six months, to meet the market needs. The system will no longer operate on a “first-come, first-serve” basis, she said.

Bill 77 asks that people interested in immigrating to Quebec fill out a declaration of interest, to help the government constitute a bank of candidates. The immigration department would then be responsible for choosing candidates best suited to Quebec’s needs. The bill also grants the department new powers to create immigration pilot projects in different regions across Quebec.

“Twenty days after students receive their diploma, for example, they can receive a certificate of selection from Quebec, and these are young people that we want to keep her, they’re already integrated and they’ve already fallen in love with Quebec,” Weil told the news conference, adding temporary workers, or workers with solid job offers, are also good candidates.

“When we choose the people that we’re going to invite to submit their file, they would already have total or partial recognition of their professional credentials. But how we’re going to get there is that other committee.”

The committee chaired by Filomena Rotiroti, the Liberal MNA for Jeanne-Mance—Viger, will release its findings as part of a policy in early 2016.

The Liberals will also address the ever-thorny question of immigration volumes in the spring. Right now, the number of immigrants Quebec is prepared to welcome next year is set at 50,000.

The Couillard Liberals say the need for labour in the province is increasing, while the number of working-age Quebecers is decreasing.

Source: Montreal Gazette