Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Quebec Premier Francois Legault in Sherbrooke, Que. on Thursday, January 17, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

NATIONAL POLITICS

Quebec Premier Legault leaves Trudeau meeting empty-handed but hopeful

The premier reiterated his desire to have newcomers demonstrate a knowledge of French

Quebec Premier Francois Legault upped his tone Thursday on demands that the federal government let the province reduce immigration, impose language and values tests on new arrivals and collect millions more dollars for refugee settlement.

One of Legault’s main election promises was to “temporarily” reduce immigration by 20 per cent, starting this year. Quebec controls who arrives in the province as economic immigrants, but Ottawa decides newcomers in the two other categories: family re-unification and refugees.

Following his Oct. 1 victory, Legault has been careful not to come off too strong in his demands from Ottawa, but he was more forceful on Thursday.

“What I understand is we would get an answer in the coming weeks,” Legault told reporters after meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Sherbrooke, Que. He mentioned there will be a series of meetings between federal and provincial ministers in Gatineau in two weeks’ time.

READ MORE: Trudeau says politicians shouldn’t prey on Canadians’ fears

“So I hope we get answers then,” Legault continued. He added that it is getting “a little urgent” on the issue of immigration levels, since the year is already more than two weeks old.

The premier reiterated his desire to have newcomers demonstrate a knowledge of French and of the values contained in the provincial charter of rights before receiving citizenship. Legault said Trudeau was open to the idea but did not give a firm commitment.

Other demands made during the meeting included $300 million in federal compensation for costs associated with the recent influx of refugees entering Quebec and approval of a single income tax return to be managed by the province.

“We want $300 million, the federal government is offering $140 million, but he said he’ll come back to us with another offer,” the premier said.

While Ottawa has signalled it’s willing to continue talking about a reduction of immigrants and more money for refugees, it’s less keen on giving up its management of taxes.

Federal Infrastructure Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said the 5,000 bureaucrats in Quebec who work in the Revenue Department have good jobs. “We want to preserve those jobs,” he said.

The Canadian Press

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