The hot issues of the new parliamentary session in Québec
In just a few days' time, Québec's ministers and MNAs will be heading back to the Capitale-Nationale, for what promises to be a particularly hot autumn. Likely flashpoints include healthcare reform, a possible public sector strike, and a debate on immigration thresholds. As the official parliamentary session gets underway, the Québec Now team brings you a roundup of the main issues likely to make their way through the National Assembly. Enjoy your reading!
Healthcare reform: the shadow of a gag order hanging overhead
After convening the parliamentary committee charged with studying his plan for major reform of the Québec healthcare system – two weeks before the official start of the parliamentary session -- Health Minister Christian Dubé tabled no fewer than 150 amendments to his own bill. The legislation was already a behemoth, comprising more than a thousand sections. Considering that the Minister wants Agence Santé Québec, the cornerstone of his reform, to be up and running by next spring, the use of a gag order already appears, for all intents and purposes, almost inevitable. Unless the Minister of Health has a few tricks up his sleeve? A parliamentary gag order would limit both the amount of time each member could speak to the bill, and the total time allowed for the bill’s debate, to ensure it is passed quickly.
Upcoming public sector strike?
The prospect of public sector workers walking off the job is probably one of the greyest clouds hanging over the Legault government as it returns to Parliament. With negotiations with the public service seemingly at an impasse for several weeks, union leaders have recently turned up the heat, threatening a strike in the fall. Such a scenario would not only risk paralyzing the day-to-day running of the government, but would also jeopardize several major projects the government is hoping to implement, notably in health, education and transport. Unlike during the previous round of negotiations, the main public service unions are presenting a united front this time, which complicates the task of Treasury Board President Sonia Lebel.
Immigration thresholds: a decisive moment for the government
Starting in September, parliamentarians will have to study the Legault government's proposals to set new immigration thresholds for Québec for the period 2024-2027. This is a potentially explosive issue for the CAQ, which has historically opposed any increase in these thresholds beyond current levels. In fact, it has begun a significant turnaround on the issue, as a result of the labour shortage. On this issue, the government has a major educational task ahead of it, particularly with its nationalist electoral base, which believes that Québec's capacity to absorb immigrants has already been reached.
Inflation and shortages lead the way back to school
The start of the new school year is shaping up to be a perilous one for Education Minister Bernard Drainville, with community organizations overwhelmed by requests for help to buy school supplies and meals for students, hundereds unfilled teaching positions just days before the start of the new school year, and teacher unions promising pressure tactics at the opening of classes. Drainville has kept a low profile in recent weeks, contenting himself with announcing a directive banning cell phone use in the classroom. Opposition parties, led by Liberal candidate Marwah Rizqy, are sure to call him to account for his handling of the back-to-school situation as soon as parliamentary proceedings resume.
Is Québec about to recognize the right to repair?
The Minister of Justice tabled a bill shortly before the end of the last parliamentary session, aimed at ensuring the durability and reparability of a number of consumer goods, such as household appliances, computers and cars. The bill is expected to be studied in the first few weeks of work at the National Assembly, and – a rare occurrence – could be adopted relatively quickly, given its positive reception by the opposition. In so doing, Québec would become the first Canadian province to enshrine the right to repair.
A by-election in the Québec City region: an important test for Legault
The surprise departure of the CAQ MP for Jean-Talon, announced earlier this summer, will force a by-election on October 2 in the Québec City region. This election comes at the worst possible time for the government: many voters in this riding remain disgruntled by the Legault government’s cancellation of the tunnel project between Québec City and Lévis. Early polls suggest that the CAQ could lose to the Parti Québécois. A sign of the nervousness in the government ranks: a timely leak revealed that the PQ candidate in the last general election wanted to run... for the CAQ. It promises to be an exciting race!
What's happening with the Québec Liberal Party leadership race?
At present, the details of the next race to appoint a successor to Dominique Anglade, who resigned following the historic defeat of the Liberal troops at the polls in October 2022, remain unknown. Nor are any prestigious candidates lining up at the door. On the contrary, one of the most prominent potential candidates, former Transport Minister André Fortin, has decided not to run. Having wrestled with the idea of presenting the rules for the next race at its Congress last summer, the QLP has postponed this timetable until the autumn. Will this encourage major candidates to declare their candidacy? We'll see!