The National Assembly is on break until March 14, but the Québec Now team is still hard at work! Here are some issues we’re keeping our eyes on...
Québec budget to be tabled on March 21
The Québec government has confirmed that Finance Minister Éric Girard will table the next provincial budget on March 21. Rest assured that our entire team will be on hand to share the highlights with you as soon as possible.
Health transfers: A bitter victory for the provinces
The mountain has laboured and brought forth a mouse: At the beginning of February, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came to the table with an offer to increase health transfers to the provinces by $46.2 billion over 10 years — a far cry from the $28 billion more per year demanded by the premiers. Nevertheless, the provinces accepted the offer, knowing that refusal would be difficult to justify in the court of public opinion. Since then, most of the premiers are working out bilateral deals with Ottawa to secure additional funding.
Major new bills introduced in February
A number of significant pieces of legislation were introduced in the National Assembly in February: First, Health Minister Christian Dubé introduced his long-awaited bill to regulate the use of private employment agencies within the provincial health-care system; the next day, Sonia Bélanger, Québec's junior health minister responsible for seniors, introduced a bill to expand the use of medical aid in dying, which would allow someone to make an advance request if they suffer from a serious and incurable illness that could prevent them from consenting to end-of-life care later on; the following week, Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette tabled a bill that would deny perpetrators of sexual assault the right to demand paternity tests for any children born as a result of their crimes; and Energy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon introduced a bill to facilitate the completion of Hydro-Québec's Hertel-New York interconnection project.
Near unanimous opposition to raising the retirement age to 62
With the notable exception of representatives from small and medium-sized businesses, almost all of the stakeholders heard during consultations on the future of the Régime de rentes du Québec (RRQ) opposed the idea of raising the age at which someone becomes eligible for the provincial pension plan from 60 to 62. In the end, Finance Minister Éric Girard announced the government has decided to keep the current pension eligibility age.
Legislation regulating minors in the workforce and new bill to create Santé Québec will wait until after spring break
Some major pieces of legislation will probably have to wait a little longer before being introduced than previously indicated. This includes a bill to further regulate and limit the work of minors, which has left many employers and restaurant owners scratching their heads. The bill to create Santé Québec, the new health agency that will operationalize Minister Dubé's plans for health-care reform, will also have to wait a little longer. At a press conference before the legislature broke for spring break, the health minister confirmed that the bill will be introduced sometime in March. The National Assembly will return from recess on March 14.
Churchill Falls: Tough negotiations ahead with Newfoundland and Labrador
As soon as the National Assembly adjourned, Premier François Legault left for Saint John's to meet with his counterpart in Newfoundland and Labrador, Andrew Furey. Premier Legault wants to start talks now to renew the supply agreement between Hydro-Québec and Newfoundland’s Churchill Falls dam. Under the current agreement, which runs until 2041, Hydro-Québec pays a paltry price for the electricity it receives, which has been a source of bitterness for our neighbours over the years. Newfoundland has tried unsuccessfully in the past to have the contract overturned by the courts. So these talks should be difficult, to say the least. We’ll keep you posted on their progress!
Roxham Road: A Québec hot potato
Roxham Road, an arrival point for thousands of irregular migrants continues to spark passionate debate. The Legault government has tried to manage the issue by asking the federal government to transfer them to other provinces. The U.S. ambassador has been summoned and a letter was sent to Prime Minister Trudeau in anticipation of President Joe Biden's visit to ensure this matter is addressed during their discussions.