Patrick Grady
April 25, 2012

Book Review
Le Remède Imaginaire: Pourquoi l'immigration ne sauvera pas le Québec

Benoît Dubreuil et Guillaume Marois
Boréal, Montréal, Québec, 2011, 316pp., ISBN 978-2-7646-2094-6.

English Canadians need to know that at least some knowledgable Quebeckers are questioning the conventional wisdom that Canada needs immigrants to deal with the aging of the population. Concerned that practically no specialists were intervening in the Quebec debate on the immigration question in general and public consultations held by the Quebec Minister of Immigration in 2007 in particular, Benoît Dubreuil, a philosopher, and Guillaume Marois, a demographer, have written this lively polemic to present the hard facts and to counter the widespread misperceptions encouraged by government, business, labour unions, the academic elites, and especially the media.

As a demographer, Marois knows well of what he writes and is able to contribute many graphs and tables both from his own works and others convincingly illustrating the minimal impact of actual and contemplated levels of immigration on the average age and age composition of the population. In addition, the book contains a very good survey of the literature on the economic performance of immigrants in Canada and to a lesser extent Quebec complete with all the relevant data.

This includes a thorough discussion of the well-known poor performance of recent immigrants in the labour force, which is slightly worse in Quebec than in the rest of the country. This probably results from the emphasis in efforts to recruit francophone immigrants from Africa and the Middle East. And in spite of these efforts, the authors report a continued deterioration in the prevalance of French in Montreal, which undermines another of the motivations for bringing in immigrants from these source countries.

The authors argue that the overall impact of immigration on per capita income is very small. They emphasize the two key realities about immigration, namely that improved immigrant performance can only be achieved by a more selective immigration policy and by reducing the number of immigrants admitted substantially.

A unique contribution of the book is its detailed treatment of the Quebec immigration system, which has differed from the Pan Canadian since the Cullen-Couture Agreement transferred the selection of certain immigrants to the Quebec Government in 1978. The Quebec selection grid for skilled workers is discussed. The functioning of the immigrant investor and live-in caregiver programs are also reviewed based on evaluations done by and for the Ministry of Immigration and Cultural Communities. This sheds light on the likely problems with the Federal progams, which have not yet been revealed by such probing and critical evaluations.

While Dubreuil and Marois are critical of the PLQ for its efforts to bring in immigrants to offset the tendency of "Québécois de souche" to vote for the the separatist PQ, they also note that following Parizeau's "money and the ethnic vote" gaffe on the eve of the 1995 referendum the PQ went through a process of "denationalization" which made it favourable to high levels of immigration. And they observe that even Mario Dumont of the ADQ who studied economics at Concordia University holds that Quebec needs immigrants.

The authors dismiss the political argument that immigration is necessary to maintain the demographic weight in Canada on the grounds that it's not clear that a bigger Quebec with more immigrants would pursue the same objectives, making the argument itself nonsensical.

The authors close with a very strong conclusion that economically and demographically Quebec does not need immigration.To say otherwise, they contend is to create expectations that are bound to be disappointed. While they acknowledge that the aging of the population is a real problem that must be faced, they conclude that immigration is only an imaginary solution. Hence, the title, which could equally well be applied to immigration in the rest of the country.

Canadians concerned about immigration policy who can read French should read this book. Those who can't will have to wait for something to come out in English, which is equally hard-hitting and cuts to the heart of the problem without worrying about the constraints of political correctness.