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  • David Boudeweel-Lefebvre

Québec's National Assembly is back in session: Hot topics to watch

Updated: Feb 27, 2023

With the National Assembly back in session, January was a busy month for political news in Québec. Here are some topics that caught our attention.

Québec political parties put on the spot by controversial federal appointment

Heading back to the National Assembly for the new year, Québec's political parties were all a bit distracted by the announcement of the appointment of Amira Elghawaby as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's special advisor on combating Islamophobia. In the past, Elghawaby has been particularly critical of Bill 21 on the secularization of the state, claiming that Quebecers seem to be influenced by anti-Muslim sentiment. Premier François Legault’s government has unsuccessfully called for her resignation.

A shift in energy: A shock named Sophie Brochu, upcoming consultations and legislation

Just a few weeks into the new year, Sophie Brochu surprised the province by announcing her intention to step down as Hydro-Québec’s president and CEO in April. Since then, there has been a steady stream of additional departures from the top of the Crown corporation. All this major institutional upheaval, which opposition parties are blaming on the Coalition avenir Québec government, is coming at a time when energy challenges are top of mind for the province: Premier Legault has announced plans for a broad public consultation on Québec's energy future this spring and his government also intends to introduce a bill on energy efficiency later this year.

A new government offensive to protect the French language

When it comes to protecting the French language, the CAQ government does not intend to stop at Bill 96, which was legislation overhauling the French Language Charter adopted during its first mandate. Québec’s Minister of the French Language, Jean-François Roberge, has announced the creation of an action group on the future of French, and plans to hold public consultations on the state of the language. A new government action plan should be unveiled by the fall of 2023 as a result of this initiative.

Parliamentary committees: Progress on health data and electricity rate cap bills

Minister Éric Caire's health data bill has received feedback from the Health and Welfare Commissioner, calling for clarifications to leave as little room for interpretation as possible. As for the government’s bill proposing a cap on Hydro-Québec’s rate increases, businesses are asking to also be covered by the maximum 3% rate increase provided for in the bill.

Retirement age: Will Québec follow in France's footsteps?

While the debate on raising the retirement age is raging in France, Québec’s public finance committee will begin discussions on Feb. 8 on its consultation document on the future of the province’s pension plan. Among the proposals contained in the document is an increase in the minimum age for receiving a pension to 62 or even 65. While we do not know the official position of the CAQ government on this issue, we can safely assume the matter presents a difficult balancing act for Legault and his party: on the one hand, such a measure would encourage job retention in the face of worsening labour shortages and would probably be welcomed by key economic stakeholders; on the other hand, such a policy change would probably be negatively received by seniors, who make up an important electoral base for the CAQ. To be continued!


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