In the early 1990s, Canada and Quebec were on the verge of separation. An immigration funding deal was struck between Mulroney’s conservative government and Quebec’s Premier Robert Bourassa. The deal was established to help immigrants settle in Quebec. However, the issue today is that the deal may no longer be sustainable due to an overlooked escalation clause.
According to a Citizenship and Immigration Canada analysis in 2012, provincial immigration funding costs have risen from $75 million per year in 1991, to $284.5 million last year. This drastic increase has been due to the escalation clause, which determines the rise in immigration funding that provincial governments are set to receive from Ottawa each year.
What exactly are the facts on the growth in transfer payments from Ottawa to Quebec regarding immigration funding over the past two decades?
- 279% increase in immigration funding transfers from the federal government to Quebec
- 4% increase in Quebec’s annual intake of permanent residents (51,833 to 55,258)
- 48% inflation according to the Bank of Canada
In Quebec more than $5,100 per immigrant and refugee is funded by the Federal Government, where as in other provinces such as British Columbia almost $3,000 is funded per immigrant. When the Harper government came into power in 2006, they tripled the per-immigrant transfers to other provinces in hopes to create parity. Since then, however, the gap between the funds for Quebec compared to other provinces for Canadian immigration programs has risen to over $2,000 per immigrant.
How has this escalation clause allowed for such outrageous growth in funding while the immigration levels in Quebec have hardly risen? A main problem with the formula is that it only allows for increases and cannot be changed without Quebec City’s consent.
The Escalation Formula
For the province of Quebec, the formula is connected to two potential growth areas: the percentage increase in the number of non-francophone immigrants to Quebec and the percentage increase in federal spending, excluding debt servicing payments.
In 2008, the number of non-francophone immigrants in Quebec decreased. The economic crisis compelled the Federal government to take stimulus measures and to increase non-debt funding by 14%. As a result, the federal transfer to Quebec immigration grew from $198 million to $226 million.
In 2012, the Quebec Government refused former Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s request that Quebec disclose details on how the money is being spent. Ottawa’s calculation is that approximately $120 million is going to resettlement services, while the majority of the funds is being funnelled into general revenues.
“We respect unequivocally Quebec’s authority to spend those funds on settlement in a way they think is most effective,” Kenney said. “But we’d actually like to be sure all those funds are actually going towards immigrant settlement. Many immigrant communities in Quebec have raised with me their concern that [the full transfer is] not actually spent on settlement or integration.”
It remains to be seen how the Federal government and Chris Alexander, Canada`s new Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, will address this funding disparity in the future.
FWCanada is a Montreal-based immigration law firm that provides professional legal services on Canadian immigration. For more tips and updates on Canadian immigration, follow FWCanada on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.