March 2023 recap
Updated: Mar 30
After a two-week legislative recess, there’s no denying that the political news cycle is back in full swing in Québec.
March 2023 ended with the provincial government unveiling its new budget, the closure of Roxham Road, the tabling of bills regulating the work of minors and introducing a new public health agency, parliamentary committees returning to work, and a byelection in Saint-Henri-Sainte-Anne. As always, the team at Québec Now is here to summarize the main events of the month in a few lines for you. Enjoy!
A budget focused on prudence and continuity for Québec
On March 21, Québec Finance Minister Éric Girard presented the first budget of the CAQ government's second mandate. Under the theme "Un Québec engagé," the budget includes a one-percentage-point reduction in the first two tax brackets for the 2023 fiscal year, a key promise made by Premier François Legault during the fall election campaign, as well as significant investments in health care and education. The budget was welcomed by some but heavily criticized by others, particularly for its lack of measures to address the housing crisis and labour shortages. Want to learn more about this important budget? Our budget breakdown will tell you everything you need to know.
Canada-U.S. agreement to close Roxham Road
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used the visit of U.S. President Joe Biden to announce the closure of Roxham Road and the renewal of the Safe Third Country Agreement. Premier Legault's government welcomed the news, having lobbied hard for the closure of the road, arguing that Québec had reached the limit of integration for these irregular migrants. Pressure on the prime minister around this issue had been rising since Québec decided to transfer migrants to other provinces, who then felt the impact of the new arrivals on their service delivery capacity.
New bills: Agence Santé Québec and child labour regulations
After several weeks of promises, the CAQ government tabled two important bills this week. The bill creating the Agence Santé Québec will cause a stir and "shake the pillars of the temple," as Health Minister Christian Dubé put it. Read our analysis of this major new legislation. And as anticipated, Québec's labour minister has tabled a bill to regulate the work of minors. The minimum age for working in Québec will now be 14. Some exceptions are foreseen — read our report to learn more.
Health agencies bill: Three amendments proposed by the government
The government has introduced three amendments to the Health Agencies Bill. If the bill is passed with amendments, the government will be able to limit the hourly rate for agency workers and self-employed workers in the health and social services sector. In addition, in exceptional cases, an organization in the health and social services sector will be able to obtain authorization to recruit personnel from an agency or self-employed person even after the period set by the government regulation has expired. Finally, the regulation can be adapted to the different sectors of activity of agencies and independent workers, as well as to the specific categories of personnel and job titles determined by the government.
Parliamentary committees in full swing
In addition to the bill on private health agencies, several other initiatives have come under the scrutiny of parliamentary committees in recent months: the scandal over the abuse of minors in field hockey, which will bring down the president of the QMJHL; the bill on health information management; and the heated consultations on the reform of the provincial pension plan, which led the government to abandon the idea of raising the eligibility age to 62. Family law reform, the Québec-New York interconnection and end-of-life care were also among the issues addressed by the various parliamentary committees. Notably, the bill to improve the justice system was passed in a matter of hours.
Byelection results: A rare victory to celebrate for Québec solidaire, a Liberal nightmare
After a general election that fell far short of expectations, Québec solidaire and lawyer Guillaume Cliche-Rivard won a decisive byelection victory in the Montréal riding of Saint-Henri-Sainte-Anne, left vacant by the resignation of former Liberal leader Dominique Anglade. This victory brings the number of QS members in the National Assembly to 12 and is unlikely to change the balance of power. For the Liberals, the defeat is particularly hard to take: the multicultural and English-speaking riding has long been a red bastion. In fact, it had never before voted otherwise since its creation!