As the summer slows down, several issues of interest continue to develop in Québec. Always on the lookout to keep you well-informed, here are some of the news items that caught our attention over the past month.
Housing crisis and housing shortage
In Québec, July is moving month. This year was no exception, with an estimated 300,000 households changing address. Due to the shortage of housing units, the number of homeless people is also on the rise. The government is doing its best to provide temporary solutions that help many families. Despite promises of social housing and predictable rents, only the massive construction of new units will offer any hope of a longer-term solution. It will be interesting to see how this element is reflected in the new housing policy that Minister France-Élaine Duranceau is due to unveil this fall.
Forest fires and land-use planning
The trend of early summer forest fires unfortunately continued into July. Evacuated towns in northern Québec had to be evacuated again. Even in the south, air quality was very poor for a few days, leading Public Health to issue advisories urging people to reduce their activities and stay at home. More than ever, campers and other outdoor enthusiasts have been urged to be careful, and a debate on the use of the boreal forest is in the offing. The Québec Minister of Public Safety did a good job of reassuring the public that the government was doing everything in its power to protect communities and control the fires.
Major resignation leads to by-election
On July 19, Jean-Talon MNA Joëlle Boutin announced her resignation. The Québec City-area member cited family reasons for her departure. Unsuccessful in the 2018 general election, she ran again and was elected in December 2019. Re-elected by a large majority in October 2022, she is now heading for a job in the private sector. Although considered as a potential minister, she was never appointed to cabinet. Ms. Boutin's departure had a big impact, especially as she represented a riding where the ruling CAQ seems to be losing ground. The by-election, which must be held within six months, could deliver a surprise result, with all four main political parties having a legitimate chance of winning.
Healthcare: system reform and collective bargaining
This summer marks a rest between two periods of debate about the ambitious reforms proposed by Christian Dubé, Québec's Minister of Health. From the creation of a new agency to local services and work reorganization, the reforms include many challenges for the government and healthcare sector. The government will need renewed energy if it is to make a success of its reform, which is also one of its key election promises. Expectations are high. In the background, collective agreement negotiations for many healthcare professionals are underway. These professionals are eager for better compensation, especially after seeing MNAs raise their own salaries. The Minister will have to skillfully maneuver around such pitfalls to achieve his objectives. As Dubé has repeatedly shown, if anyone can move the huge ship that is the healthcare system, it is him.
Consultation on immigration thresholds
After defending the maintenance of immigration thresholds at 50,000 new arrivals per year, the proposal to increase this threshold to 60,000 over three years is finally on the table. Interested groups have until mid-August to submit their comments. In the face of a continuing labour shortage and sustained economic growth, the question arises whether this objective should not be even more ambitious. As Québec's weight in the Canadian federation shrinks, the goal in immigration is no longer just economic and social, it's also political. The main business associations are in favour of the proposed increase, while some Québec nationalist elements are opposed. The debate is quiet for the moment, but the conclusions of the consultation, and above all the government's decision, could reawaken a debate that has not been stirred since the 2022 election.
Regulating big tech
When the federal government passed legislation to regulate companies such as Google, Meta (parent company of Facebook and Instagram), Apple and others, Québec did not stand idly by. Solidly behind journalists and traditional news media, the Québec government supported the federal measures that included requiring these companies to pay Canadian news outlets when users link to their content. Québec even encouraged further action to protect French-language content. In turn, the companies are preparing to block links from their sites to Canadian news sites. It will be interesting to see how the measures are applied, and whether the web giants will go ahead with their threatened blackout of Canadian news.