All elected members of Québec’s government and opposition parties will be back on the benches of the National Assembly as of 10 a.m. on Jan. 31, when the legislature reconvenes for the new year. Here’s what we’ll be keeping our eye on in 2023…
New legislation encouraging energy “sobriety”
Pierre Fitzgibbon, Québec’s “super” minister, is convinced that Quebecers are using too much energy. He is expected to introduce a new bill in early 2023 aimed at freeing up some of the capacity in the province’s hydroelectric network so that it can be redirected toward projects that will either benefit the provincial economy or help Québec meet its targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The legislation could include provisions to encourage the installation of heat pumps and facilitate the deployment of wind farms. Most notably, it is expected to significantly revise Hydro-Québec's rate structure, possibly even introducing dynamic pricing.
Upcoming bill to strengthen child labour laws
Labour Minister Jean Boulet has promised to introduce a bill in the early months of 2023 to further protect minors in the labour market. While its precise contents are still unknown, the report on which it will be based advocates setting the minimum age for employment at 14, with some exceptions, and prohibiting young people aged 14 to 16 from working more than 17 hours per week, including weekends, during the school year.
Movement on healthcare reform shifting into high gear
The Coalition avenir Québec will likely take advantage of this legislative session to move its healthcare reform plans forward. Before the holidays, it reintroduced a bill concerning access to health data, an essential component of its strategy, and the legislation should soon be entering committee stage for study. Other changes are planned, such as the establishment of Santé Québec, an agency intended to separate the management of provincial healthcare operations from the Ministry of Health — a move the CAQ has framed as an essential step for the successful implementation of its plans for healthcare reform.
Renewed debate on immigration thresholds
The Québec government will need to hold consultations in 2023 to establish new immigration thresholds. While Premier François Legault has already indicated his intention to maintain a limit of 50,000 newcomers per year, his government is under increasing pressure to raise the bar: worsening labour shortages and the expected decline in Québec’s demographic weight within Canada could end up forcing his hand. As already reported in the media, the government is prepared to raise its thresholds if necessary, at least for immigrants who speak French.
Expanding medical aid in dying
Due to lack of time, the bill to expand medical assistance in dying introduced by Québec’s health minister, Christian Dubé, died on the order paper during the last session of the legislature. Now that the CAQ has returned to power, they intend to revive this issue. According to Sonia Bélanger, Minister for Health and Seniors, the new version of the bill should be tabled this year and will extend medical aid in dying to people with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's or dementia.
2023-2024 budget to be released under the shadow of a recession
Like every year, the Québec government will table its budget in March. Finance Minister Éric Girard will likely take advantage of this opportunity to unveil the final component of the "anti-inflation shield" promised by the CAQ during the fall election campaign and reaffirmed in Premier Legault’s inaugural speech: lowering personal income taxes by 1%. Pre-budget consultations are being held until Feb. 17. Minister Girard will likely be taking an exceptionally cautious approach to financial policymaking decisions this year, as several signs are already pointing to a recession on the horizon.