- David Boudeweel-Lefebvre
April news in a nutshell
Updated: May 10
No time to follow Québec political news on a daily basis? No problem, we do it for you! Last month may have been overshadowed by the cancellation of the Québec-Lévis Third Link project, a key promise of the CAQ and François Legault. Still, there was no shortage of developments that are worth noting. We hope you find this digest interesting and informative.
Ice storm: Hydro-Québec in turmoil
The first weeks of April were not easy for Hydro-Québec. In addition to the official resignation of its CEO, Sophie Brochu, its network was hit particularly hard by the April 5 ice storm, which left more than a million Québec homes without power. The Crown corporation found itself in hot water for its poor management of the crisis, which left many seniors and other vulnerable people without power, sometimes for several days. Hydro-Québec was accused of failing to learn from the ice storm that hit Québec in 1998. Stable, affordable electricity has long been a competitive advantage for Québec, and problems at Hydro-Québec or with the power grid are always a concern for both the public and private sectors.
Minors' work: Minister overwhelmed by requests for exemptions
The Québec government's intention to prohibit young people under 14 from the work force is causing some concern in economic circles: during the study of the bill, representatives of certain restaurant owners, retailers and small and medium-sized businesses, as well as farmers, appeared before parliamentarians to ask for exemptions and amendments. Will they be able to convince the Minister of Labor, Jean Boulet? It remains to be seen: although the minister has said he is open to additional exemptions, his room to maneuver will be limited, at the risk of shattering the fragile consensus that exists between opposition parties, unions and employers. Stay tuned!
Health: bill on private agencies passed, Santé Québec under review
No sooner had the bill limiting the use of private agencies in the health care system been passed than parliamentarians began to examine another major component of Christian Dubé's health plan: the bill to improve the efficiency of the health care network, notably through the creation of the agency Santé Québec. The new agency is expected to coordinate the operations of the health-care network, while the ministry will retain its role of determining its direction and allocating funds. While the network managers welcome the reform, several stakeholders, including the health commissioner, have questioned the decentralization promised by the minister. This has contributed to the opposition's reluctance to quickly approve the massive bill, which contains nearly 1,200 sections.
Towards an increase in immigration thresholds?
After having defended against all odds the maintenance of immigration thresholds at 50,000 newcomers per year, the caquiste government is now considering a significant increase in these thresholds, provided that a greater proportion of the newcomers are francophone. The goal? To combat labor shortages and slow the demographic decline of Québec, the only French-speaking jurisdiction in North America. If Immigration Minister Christine Fréchette confirms this direction at the end of the public consultation, expected later this year, it will be a major reversal.
Other news: Blue Fund, vaping, animal welfare and artificial intelligence
In contrast to the previous month, April was relatively quiet in terms of the introduction of new legislation. The Minister of the Environment took the opportunity to introduce his Bill 20, which aims to increase – by a factor of ten – the water charges levied on businesses and to create a Blue Fund to finance improvements and protections for Québec's waterways. The Minister of Health has also tabled a new draft regulation that would formally ban non-tobacco flavored vaping products. The Minister of Agriculture, André Lamontagne, launched a consultation on the welfare of companion animals, the precise details and objectives of which have yet to be determined, while the Minister of the Economy launched a consultation on artificial intelligence.
Study of department allocations: government activities under the microscope of parliamentarians
From April 24 to May 5, parliamentary committees will take a break from reviewing bills to examine the budgets of the various departments and agencies of the Québec government. This is an important exercise in government accountability that sometimes leads to surprising moments, when opposition members look beyond the bottom lines of budgets.