03/19/2015 07:08 EDT | Updated 05/19/2015 05:59 EDT

Pierre Karl Péladeau says immigration hurts Quebec sovereignty

Parti Québécois leadership candidate Pierre Karl Péladeau says he believes immigration is seriously compromising the province’s ability to achieve sovereignty.

The perceived front-runner in the contest to lead the party took that position on Wednesday evening in a PQ leadership debate at Laval University in Quebec City.

"We don’t have 25 years ahead of us to achieve it. With demographics, with immigration, we’re definitely losing one riding each year," Péladeau told a room of 350 people.

He said the PQ could be in danger of disappearing if immigrants continue to come to the province in great numbers.

He said that Quebec would love to control immigration, however, the PQ should not have any illusions about who really controls the number of newcomers to the province.

"Who’s responsible for the immigrants who come and settle in Quebec? It’s the federal government," Péladeau said.

All the other leadership candidates took issue with his remarks.

Bernard Drainville, Alexandre Cloutier, Pierre Céré and Martine Ouellet all spoke about the PQ’s need to welcome immigrants and incorporate them into their sovereignty solution by showing them how great Quebec as a country could be.