The return to Parliament in Québec City
In politics, it is crucial to plan carefully for a new parliamentary session. For the return of MNAs to the National Assembly this fall, François Legault's advisors had planned a whole sequence of announcements, from the electric battery supply chain to the Québec Health Agency. If there's one constant in politics, however, it's that a return to Parliament very rarely goes according to plan. So, what did the MNAs talk about when they returned to the House?
Gender identity: the back-to-school surprise topic
Unequivocally, this was probably the issue of the new parliamentary term that nobody saw coming. Born out of a micro-controversy surrounding a school's plan to turn its toilets into "mixed-use toilets", the debate on gender identity snowballed, forcing the Premier himself to call for calm and entrust this political hot potato to a "committee of wise people". This debate, which completely overshadowed several planned government announcements and the opposition's game plan, promises to continue to cause a stir over the coming weeks. Stay tuned!
Surprisingly quiet public consultation on immigration thresholds
It was a topic that was shaping up to be a must-read, and one that was sending shivers down the spines of many in government: the public consultation to determine immigration thresholds for the 2024-2027 period. The subject was all the more sensitive for François Legault, who, after describing the prospect of raising them during the election campaign as "suicidal for Québec", began a major U-turn. He proposed a scenario that would raise these same thresholds from 50,000 to 60,000 by 2027. Although the consultation process is still underway, it has to be said that, for the time being, the debate is causing far fewer waves than anticipated.
Programmed obsolescence: near unanimity in parliamentary committee
It's a relatively rare occurrence in Québec politics: during the detailed consultations on Bill 29, which aims to better combat the programmed obsolescence of various consumer goods and legislate a “right to repair”, almost all the stakeholders heard were generally in favor of the text, as were the parliamentarians present. This apparent consensus seems to pave the way for rapid adoption of this piece of legislation, a first, small but concrete victory for the CAQ team this autumn. If adopted as presented, this bill would be a first in the country. Many groups hope that other Canadian jurisdictions will follow Québec's example and introduce similar legislation.
Santé Québec: a debate that is progressing well, but too slowly
The detailed study of Minister of Health Christian Dubé's flagship reform of the healthcare network continued apace in September. Although he managed to avoid controversy, Minister Dubé must be disappointed that the myriad amendments he himself tabled to his bill, to address concerns expressed in committee, did not receive enthusiastic reactions. Above all, time is running out, and parliamentarians have only studied 17% of the bill. If the government wants to pass its legislation before the end of the year, it may have to resort to a debate-limiting gag order if the pace remains the same. Unless the government is prepared to postpone its adoption?
The development of the battery industry continues outside Bécancour
For the government, this is probably one of the issues they're most keen to promote this fall, especially as it's fully in line with the economic nationalism championed by the CAQ. The month of September saw a flurry of major battery investment announcements: Volta Canada in Granby, Northvolt in Saint-Basile-le-Grand/McMasterville, and more to come, according to the Premier. While this issue enjoys general support for the moment, critics have begun to make themselves heard, particularly about the public sums invested in this sector, which now exceed one billion dollars.
Redrawing the electoral map: trouble ahead at the Salon Bleu
Periodically, the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) proposes changes to the electoral map of Québec to reflect the province's changing demographics. Each time, this exercise raises passions, particularly among MNAs whose ridings are threatened with disappearance. Considering that these ridings are mainly located on the island of Montréal, where the last Liberal strongholds are located, and in remote regions where the PQ's strongholds remain solid, this time is sure to be no exception!
Our analysis: slight advantage for the government
No, the government's announcements probably didn't have all the visibility the CAQ would have liked. The government team also seems to have been taken a little unawares by the magnitude of the debate on gender identity, which, let's face it, nobody had anticipated. In spite of everything, the CAQ government avoided making any serious mistakes, even though the potential pitfalls were numerous. Although often at a slower pace than expected, its flagship bills -- on health and housing, for example -- are on track and moving forward. For their part, the opposition parties have had a hard time putting the government on the ropes. They had to position themselves, with some difficulty, on the issue of gender identity, without succeeding in distinguishing themselves. They were also unable to make the government look bad on hot-button issues such as immigration and housing.