Que­bec presses PM to cover refugee cost

Winnipeg Free Press - - I CANADA NEWS - GIUSEPPE VALIANTE

Premier wants flood out­lets fast-tracked

MON­TREAL — Premier Brian Pal­lis­ter is fac­ing down op­po­si­tion to his push to have Ot­tawa fast-track In­ter­lake flood-preven­tion chan­nels, a topic he raised in meet­ings Fri­day with all 13 premiers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In a dis­cus­sion about reg­u­la­tions and red tape, Pal­lis­ter brought up the Lake Man­i­toba and Lake St. Martin flood chan­nels, which Ot­tawa sup­ports but has flagged for a thor­ough en­vi­ron­men­tal re­view.

Pal­lis­ter has warned that re­form of re­views of that kind could de­lay the pro­ject.

Bill C-69 aims to clar­ify the scope of re­views and in­clude the role of Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Ot­tawa will con­sider amend­ing this leg­is­la­tion, even though it’s al­ready be­ing de­bated by the Se­nate.

“The com­mit­ment we have to­day is that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment will work with the prov­inces, as they move for­ward with that reg­u­la­tory frame­work. We look for­ward to that, and that is new.”

Among those raising con­cerns about the $540-mil­lion out­let chan­nels is Man­i­toba Metis Fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent David Chartrand, who took part in an early Fri­day meet­ing be­tween Trudeau and Indige­nous lead­ers, which the premiers later joined.

Ot­tawa has in­vited the fed­er­a­tion to weigh in on the case. Chartrand said he plans to raise the prob­lem of ze­bra mus­sels and com­pet­ing fish species flow­ing through those out­let chan­nels, and the chance this will dev­as­tate Métis set­tle­ments that rely on fish­ing for food and their in­come.

“If we don’t do a proper study, are we go­ing to try and fix it 20 years later, and find out we’ve caused so much eco-dam­age that we can’t re­verse it? There’s too many un­knowns,” he said. “We need proper con­sul­ta­tion.”

Mean­while, Chartrand said he is try­ing to get premiers on board for what he said will be a con­struc­tion bo­nanza, thanks to fed­eral dol­lars to build homes, day­cares and schools in Métis set­tle­ments. He said premiers from Bri­tish Columbia and Saskatchewan ex­pressed an in­ter­est, but Pal­lis­ter did not.

“It’s good for Man­i­toba, it’s good for me; we’re go­ing to be pay­ing taxes,” he said. “We’re bring­ing to you a gold plat­ter full of good­ies. And you’re not even open­ing the door to let us bring it in.” MON­TREAL — Que­bec Premier François Le­gault said he made progress dur­ing Fri­day’s first min­is­ters meet­ing on his de­mand that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment pay $300 mil­lion in com­pen­sa­tion to cover the cost of refugees ar­riv­ing in the prov­ince.

Le­gault said Ot­tawa had of­fered to cover only the cost of lodg­ing the asy­lum seek­ers — about half of what Que­bec wanted.

“This af­ter­noon they have moved for­ward a lit­tle more to say they are ready to look at other ex­penses be­sides lodg­ing,” Le­gault told re­porters at the end of the meet­ing. “We will have dis­cus­sions with the bills be­tween min­is­ters and bu­reau­crats to get as close as pos­si­ble to $300 mil­lion. It is a lot of money.”

Since 2017, there has been an in­flux of asy­lum seek­ers en­ter­ing Que­bec across the United States border. Le­gault said it takes more than 18 months for wouldbe refugees to find out if they can re­main in the coun­try.

In the mean­time, Que­bec pays for their hous­ing, ed­u­ca­tion and health care costs, which have to­talled roughly

$300 mil­lion over two years, Le­gault said. He said Ot­tawa is re­spon­si­ble for the lengthy delays in the sys­tem.

“I ex­pect Mr. Trudeau to com­pen­sate us,” he said be­fore meet­ing the prime minister and his fel­low premiers.

“It’s un­ac­cept­able for it to take

18 months be­fore (asy­lum seek­ers) get an an­swer. And in the ma­jor­ity of cases, they are re­fused, be­cause they can­not prove that their life is in dan­ger.”

Fed­eral au­thor­i­ties pro­cessed 24,745 asy­lum claims made in Que­bec in 2017 — five times more than the pre­vi­ous year. The pace has con­tin­ued this year, with 23,595 claimants in Que­bec pro­cessed through the end of Oc­to­ber.

The prov­ince re­ceives more than half of all asy­lum claims in Canada, in­clud­ing the vast ma­jor­ity of those en­ter­ing through non-of­fi­cial border cross­ings.

Le­gault said it is Ot­tawa’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to pay for the di­rect costs of asy­lum seek­ers.

In Ot­tawa, op­po­si­tion mem­bers rep­re­sent­ing Que­bec rid­ings called on the Trudeau gov­ern­ment to agree to Le­gault’s re­quest.

“The re­quest is to­tally ap­pro­pri­ate, and I hope that the gov­ern­ment is go­ing be at­ten­tive to this re­quest,” New Demo­crat MP Matthew Dubé said.

Con­ser­va­tive MP Pierre Paul-Hus said Que­bec should not be left with the bill for what he called “the mis­takes and the fail­ures of the prime minister.”

Gabriel Ste-Marie of the Bloc Québé­cois said Ot­tawa should be com­pen­sat­ing Que­bec rather than help­ing Al­berta buy rail­cars to ship oil, some­thing Trudeau has said he would con­sider.

“The cri­sis is be­ing badly man­aged by Ot­tawa,” he said. “It’s Que­bec that is left with the bill.”

The is­sue of com­pen­sa­tion for refugee costs is part of larger ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Ot­tawa and Que­bec over im­mi­gra­tion.

The Le­gault gov­ern­ment an­nounced plans this week to re­duce an­nual im­mi­gra­tion to the prov­ince by 20 per cent start­ing next year. The prov­ince wants to re­duce all three types of im­mi­gra­tion: eco­nomic, fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion and refugees.

It only con­trols eco­nomic im­mi­gra­tion, how­ever, so it needs Ot­tawa’s co­op­er­a­tion to cur­tail im­mi­gra­tion in the other two cat­e­gories, and Trudeau has al­ready raised con­cerns about Que­bec’s plan.

Un­der a 1991 agree­ment be­tween Que­bec and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, the prov­ince is guar­an­teed 25 per cent of the to­tal money Ot­tawa trans­fers to the prov­inces for im­mi­gra­tion set­tle­ment.

De­spite its planned re­duc­tions, Que­bec is set to re­ceive about $550 mil­lion in 2019 — up from about $490 mil­lion in 2018.

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