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B.C.'s Eby frustrated at Quebec immigration money 'at the expense' of Western Canada

WHITEHORSE — Federal immigration money is being "showered down" on Ontario and Quebec "at the expense" of Western Canada, British Columbia Premier David Eby said.
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British Columbia Premier David Eby, fourth from the left, speaks as other premiers listen during a news conference after a meeting of western premiers, in Whistler, B.C., on Tuesday, June 27, 2023. Premiers from across Western Canada are wrapping up meetings in Whitehorse today aimed at discussing common concerns in the region. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

WHITEHORSE — Federal immigration money is being "showered down" on Ontario and Quebec "at the expense" of Western Canada, British Columbia Premier David Eby said.

Eby told a news conference to mark the end of the annual Western Premiers' Conference on Monday that Ottawa's offer of $750 million to Quebec to help pay for a surge in temporary residents there is frustrating, and B.C. should also get a share.

Eby said there are 10,000 people coming to British Columbia every 37 days, refugees have to stay in homeless shelters and international students don't have support.

"And so to see a single-province agreement with Quebec, is an underlining of a sense of frustration that I heard around the table," he said.

"I won't put this on anyone else, but I'll say for British Columbia, how frustrated we are to see the money being showered down on Quebec and Ontario, and us scrabbling around for what's left over. It's not acceptable."

Quebec Premier François Legault had said the offer from Ottawa came after he asked for $1 billion to cover costs associated with a surge in temporary residents.

Eby said Canadians are seeing resources go to Ontario and Quebec "at the expense, in my opinion, of the West."

"That announcement today with Quebec, frankly, is the straw that broke this camel's back," he said on Monday.

"I cannot understand how that could happen. I cannot understand why we cannot get a per capita share at a minimum."

Legault has previously said the number of temporary residents coming to the province — including asylum seekers, students and workers — had "exploded" to 560,000, a number he says doubled in two years, straining social services.

B.C. government figures show there were 475,778 non-permanent residents in the province as of Jan. 1, an increase of about 84 per cent from two years earlier.

Federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller's office did not provide a response in time for deadline.

Eby made the comments as premiers from Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Saskatchewan and Yukon wrapped up two days' worth of meetings in Whitehorse.

Yukon Premier Ranj Pillai said the leaders represent different viewpoints but were able to set aside partisanship.

"As we look across the country and around the world, we see productive, multi-partisan, collaborative conversations less likely to occur than we've seen in the past. And in response, we see citizens look elsewhere to place their trust," he said.

"We urge leaders at the provincial and federal levels to follow our lead and walk together on a path that leads us to the best outcomes for people in their jurisdictions. Good ideas are not limited to one political ideology."

A statement from the premiers said the talks included discussions to improve supply chains and infrastructure, as well as talk of Arctic and energy security.

It said western provinces and territories are working on unique housing challenges.

"While premiers acknowledge the efforts being made at the federal level, greater collaboration is required," the statement says.

"Premiers discussed recent federal policy announcements and noted that substantial engagement from the federal government is needed to ensure new funding complements ongoing investments being made by provinces and territories," the premiers said, referring to the need to collaborate on more housing.

The statement says the premiers are disappointed that this year's federal budget did not include a successor to the Investing in Canada infrastructure program.

"Premiers reiterated the need for flexible, predictable, and long-term federal infrastructure funding that is delivered on a base-plus per capita basis," it says.

The statement said more needs to be done to harness Western Canada’s energy resources, including oil and gas, liquefied natural gas, uranium and hydroelectricity, as well as in emerging opportunities such as hydrogen, biofuels, small modular nuclear reactors and critical minerals.

When asked about a possible agreement between British Columbia and Alberta related to hydrogen, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said hydrogen represents a multi-trillion-dollar industry and comes with the possibility of partnerships with First Nations.

"So I think that process is just beginning. I don't want to prejudge how it might end up, but I think that there's a spirit of collaboration happening between our two provinces and the federal government on that," she said.

Next year's meeting of the western premiers is slated to take place in the Northwest Territories.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2024.

The Canadian Press