After a well-deserved holiday break, Québec MNAs are back in the National Assembly. While the Legault government is keen to regain control and refocus on its priorities, the opposition is more motivated than ever to make its mark on the public. Here's a look back at an atypical start to the new parliamentary term, and the Québec news of recent weeks. Happy reading!
The start of the new parliamentary term: a false start for the government
Faced with a significant drop in the polls, François Legault's team was counting on the return to Parliament to regain Quéthe upper hand. After the many controversies generated prior to the holiday season, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) troops now want to get back to basics, refocus on government priorities and avoid political side shows. However, this return to strength will have to wait a little longer: while the CAQ had planned major public appearances, notably on immigration, housing and construction, it finds itself mired in a controversy over its political financing.
Essentially, half a dozen CAQ MNAs are accused of inviting mayors and citizens to a fundraising event where the entrance fee was $100 – the maximum limit allowed for private contributions – with the promise of "privileged access" to one or more Legault government ministers. While Québec law allows the party to collect personal donations, it stipulates that these must be made without consideration (corporate and union donations are banned, and parties receive government funding in proportion to their vote in the last general election). Whether any consideration was offered is a matter of debate, but the accusations have nevertheless led to certain CAQ MNAs being placed under the microscope, and to investigations by the National Assembly's Ethics Commissioner.
However, the Prime Minister's surprise announcement that his party will no longer be collecting political contributions is evidence of a certain nervousness in the CAQ ranks. All the more so as such a decision is fraught with consequences: it will deprive the CAQ of precious financial resources, while its political adversaries will continue lining their coffers with a view to the 2026 general election, having rebuffed the CAQ’s entreaty to join them in turning down personal donations.
Fewer asylum seekers in Québec, says Legault
On the eve of the new parliamentary session, Québec Premier François Legault sent a letter to his federal counterpart Justin Trudeau, asking him to curb the arrival of asylum seekers in Québec. In his view, the province has reached a breaking point, and is struggling to provide basic educational and health services to these new arrivals. The Premier points out that in 2022, Québec alone welcomed more asylum seekers than the rest of Canada combined.
Poll: The CAQ's decline in popularity is confirmed
A poll released on the first day of the new parliamentary session confirmed the CAQ's declining popularity among Québec voters. The Parti Québécois now leads the province in voting intentions, at 32%, while François Legault's team lags considerably behind with a meager 21%. According to this poll, if an election were held immediately, the CAQ would lose most of its seats to the PQ, retaining only...nine. Although experience has shown that polls don't make springs, figures like these are enough to send shivers down the spines of more than one Caquiste MP.
Government takes action against municipal ban on natural gas
Under a draft regulation tabled at the end of January, municipalities will soon no longer have the right to prohibit natural gas connections on their territory, at least without authorization from the Québec government. This initiative comes at a time when a growing number of municipalities want to turn their backs on hydrocarbons, despite higher energy demands throughout Québec. The government, for its part, argues that municipalities do not have the expertise to determine the impact of such a decision on Québec's energy security.
End of pre-budget consultation period
The Québec government's pre-budget consultation period officially came to a close on February 2. The Boudeweel Public Affairs team is proud to have guided its clients through this challenging but important process, which should enable the Minister of Finance, Éric Girard, to determine government priorities for the 2024-2025 Québec Budget, due to be tabled sometime in March.