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  • David Boudeweel-Lefebvre

Québec news in brief

It's not just the weather that's heating up these days: the news in Québec is booming too! As usual, we're bringing you a selection of the news that's been keeping Québecers on their toes this spring. Happy reading!


New Agence Santé Québec: Christian Dubé chooses his top gun

A new milestone has been reached in the establishment of the Santé Québec agency. The Minister of Health, Christian Dubé, has officially announced the appointment of Geneviève Biron as the very first President and CEO of the new government corporation, whose mission is to manage the operations of Québec's immense public healthcare network. Ms. Biron, who comes from the private sector, headed up Biron Groupe Santé, and was instrumental in setting up Imagix, today the largest medical imaging service in Québec.


The choice of a high-level manager from the private sector to head Santé Québec was expected: during the study of the bill creating the organization, the Minister of Health, Christian Dubé, had already made known his desire to attract a top gun from outside the public network to take the helm. Despite this, the appointment drew its share of criticism, with several unions seeing it as a harbinger of growing private sector participation in healthcare.


Ms. Biron will be assisted by Frédéric Abergel, Executive Vice-President, Operations and Transformation. Mr. Abergel is an experienced manager within the public network, and was until now President and CEO of the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal. His mission will be to liaise between Santé Québec and the CEOs of the current CISSS and CIUSSS, to ensure a smooth landing for Santé Québec. 


The mandate of this complementary duo will be colossal: in addition to the functional implementation of Santé Québec, Minister Dubé wishes to bring about a major cultural change within the public network, with the aim of providing faster, more compassionate service to patients. From now on, the organization will also be the sole employer of the 330,000 or so employees in Québec's healthcare network.


A succession of departures at the CAQ

The last few weeks have seen a succession of departures from François Legault's team. Among the most notable, Éric Lefebvre, MP for Arthabaska, chose to leave the Caquiste caucus to run as a candidate on Pierre Poilievre's team in the next federal election. The Premier also had to deal with the departures of his Director of Media Relations, Director of Government Policy, Director of Government Communications and Political Advisor for Regional Priorities. These departures come against an already unfavourable backdrop for the CAQ, which is trailing in the polls.


Parti Québécois leader under the microscope

Paul St-Pierre-Plamondon, leader of the Parti Québécois, has suddenly found himself under much closer scrutiny by journalists, and under much more sustained attack from both the government and the other opposition parties. In particular, Mr. St-Pierre-Plamondon had to defend himself against having a short fuse, after abruptly leaving a committee debate about Executive Council spending. St. Pierre-Plamondon was frustrated with Premier Legault’s answers on a future independence referendum and other issues.


Québec Solidaire: co-spokesperson resigns, party in crisis

In a lengthy open letter, Québec solidaire women's co-spokesperson Émilise Lessard-Therrien officially announced her resignation, excoriating her male co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and his inner circle in the process. The departure lifted the veil on a crisis that had clearly been brewing for a long time within the left-leaning party. After a week punctuated by criticisms, denunciations and departures, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, still supported by his caucus, called for a thorough reform of his party, to make it a true party of government. Will he succeed?


Energy bill to be tabled by June

The long-awaited energy bill from Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of the Economy, Innovation and Energy, seems to be getting closer to being tabled in the next few weeks, "by June", according to the minister concerned. However, it remains to be seen what it will contain: over the past few weeks, the government has given contradictory signals on several key elements of the legislation, notably the increase in residential electricity rates and private electricity generation. Stay tuned!


Is public transit a mission of the Québec government or not?

Transport Minister Geneviève Guilbault stirred up controversy when she declared, during her department's budget review, that public transport "was not a mission of the Québec government". In so saying, the Minister was responding to mayors' demands for major investments to offset the deficits of the transit companies for which they are responsible. She concluded by calling on everyone to "manage their own ferns", bringing a smile to the faces of many observers of the Québec political scene.


Capital gains taxation: Québec follows Ottawa's lead

Less than a week after the tabling of the federal budget, which contained a surprise increase in the inclusion rate for capital gains over $250,000, the Québec government decided, officially for "harmonization" reasons, to do the same. Finance Minister Éric Girard estimates that this new measure could reduce Québec's deficit by around $1 billion. Certainly a welcome sum, given the current state of Québec's public finances.





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