Review of the parliamentary session: some good and some bad moments
Since last week, parliamentarians are back in their respective constituencies, having left the Québec National Assembly for the summer. What can we learn from the last parliamentary session?
The CAQ gets off to a flying start in its new mandate
On the legislative front, François Legault's team took advantage of the first real parliamentary session of its second mandate to launch a number of initiatives. These included key promises from his election platform: several measures to tackle inflation, a major reform of the health care system, and the creation of a Blue Fund to protect Québec's waterways. The CAQ ministers have also pulled a few rabbits out of their hats, with bills on school governance reform, expropriation, housing and the fight against planned obsolescence of consumer products such as mobile phones. In all these cases, the same objective is being pursued: to take advantage of the first year in office to resolve various irritants that were not addressed by previous governments, for lack of the necessary political capital. This is an approach that, barring any surprises, should be maintained next autumn. In the end, no fewer than 30 bills were introduced by the government team, and, remarkably, nearly 20 were adopted.
A productive return to business, but more laborious than expected
While the last session was productive and full of good news, it was not without its problems for the government: the abandonment of a third Québec-Lévis vehicle tunnel, a key election promise, shook public confidence in François Legault for the first time. It also created cracks within the CAQ caucus, with some ministers making clumsy or critical statements about the decision. Finally, the adoption of a bill raising MNAs’ salaries by more than $30,000 -- in the midst of negotiations with public sector employees -- did not go down well with the public. In the end, however, the CAQ fared relatively well, with its support stabilizing after declining slightly, according to the polls.
An opposition weaker than ever
If François Legault's team isn't suffering too much from his missteps, it is primarily due to the weakness of the opposition. The Québec Liberal Party, still reeling from its crushing electoral defeat, is grappling with existential questions and the organization of a leadership race that lacks any major contenders thus far. Québec Solidaire is unable to shake off François Legault's left-wing label and connect with the average voter. Popular co-spokesperson Manon Massé has decided to pass the torch to a future successor, and it remains to be seen what impact this will have on the Solidaire’s voters. Now that the pandemic is over, and without access to the National Assembly, Éric Duhaime's Conservative Party seems to be struggling to exist. The Parti Québécois, against all odds, is probably the party that fared best, despite its three-member caucus and limited resources. The separatist party forced the government to pass a bill to end the requirement for MNAs to swear an oath to the King, and outfoxed it on more than one occasion on nationalist terrain. With their second (albeit distant) position in the polls, the Parti Québecois now like to present themselves as the only alternative to the CAQ.