Quebec Ink

Quebec Ink: On immigration, the CAQ government is listening to tech entrepreneurs

Quebec Premier François Legault in Ottawa in September 2020. The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick

MONTREAL — The tech bros were restive.

It was November 2019, and roughly 20 entrepreneurs from the Quebec chapter of the scale-up business-advocacy group Council of Canadian Innovators (CCI) were seated around a table in an office in Old Montreal. At its head was Pierre Fitzgibbon, Quebec’s minister of economy and innovation. And yes, this being tech, middle-aged white dudes in business casual were well represented. 

The topic of discussion was the province’s tech sector. Montreal’s academic plunge into the realm of artificial intelligence in the early 1990s had begat a booming marketplace for tech-suffixed startups in the city: fintech, proptech, healthtech, agtech, cleantech. All and more were represented around that table—and all wanted to know why Fitzgibbon’s government was kneecapping their business plans.

Why, they wondered, had the governing Coalition Avenir Québec cut immigration just as they were starved for programmers, developers, executives and other well-paid sector types? Fitzgibbon, who usually draws much of the oxygen in a crowd, was uncharacteristically quiet. At the end of the minutes-long kvetch session, Fitzgibbon nodded. “Yeah, we messed that one up,” he said, according to two sources who were at the meeting, and who requested anonymity to speak freely about the private meeting. Fitzgibbon promised his government would do something about it.

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