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Analysis | The painful autumn of François Legault

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The Prime Minister of Quebec, Francois Legault

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Even in a nightmare, François Legault probably did not expect to end the parliamentary session in second place in the polls, behind the Parti Québécois, and with the lowest satisfaction rate of all his counterparts at the provincial level. Canadian.

The Prime Minister may have warned his troops that the fall would be difficult, but the fall could not have been more brutal. It is necessary, at the end of a parliamentary session, to review the good and bad moves of cabinet members, but we have the feeling that the current setbacks of the CAQ come largely from its leader.

If the problems began with the abandonment of the tunnel between Quebec and Lévis last spring, it was François Legault’s attempt to resurrect the project, improvised the next day of the defeat in Jean-Talon, who best illustrates the evil that afflicts his party.

Throughout the fall, the CAQ gave the impression of sailing by sight, without a clear destination. We promised to look again at the question of the third link, just as the Quebec City tram project was being put on hold. And just a few days after explaining that we did not have enough money to improve salary offers for public sector employees, the Minister of Finance announced a subsidy to the Los Angeles Kings.

Usued to finishing at the top of the end-of-session charts, Eric Girard finished this one at the bottom of the list. The government’s big financier was completely taken by surprise by the backlash his decision caused, sure that Quebecers were as passionate about hockey as he himself is.

The elected government officials who stood out the most this fall are those who, from the backbenches, dared to express out loud what many of their colleagues were thinking quietly. Yannick Gagnon (MP for Jonquière), Éric Girard (MP for Lac-Saint-Jean, not to be confused with the Minister of Finance) and Luc Provençal (MP for Beauce-Nord) did not hesitate to relay the dissatisfaction of their voters, even if they ended up falling into line.

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The Provençal MP also seems to be a master in the art of saying a lot in a few words . Asked about his party’s slide in the polls, he contented himself with a single sentence: The people will always be right, he declared, impassively. Yet we all understood what he meant.

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Eric Girard, Minister of Finance of Quebec

While Eric Girard (the minister) was in the penalty box, another member of the economic trio was doing the hat trick. Whether we agree or not with the fact of investing so much public money in the battery sector, we must admit that Pierre Fitzgibbon fulfills the mandate entrusted to him with great proactivity.

Rarely have we seen economic announcements follow one another at such a frantic pace, think of the billions of dollars of investments by Northvolt, Ford and TES Canada, to give just a few examples. If many questions remain as to the repercussions that these different projects will have, we at least have the feeling that things are moving, which is far from being the case in all ministries.

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Quebec Premier François Legault during the press conference announcing Northvolt’s investment

On another note, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Andrée Laforest, avoided a lot of headaches for her government by succeeding in signing a new fiscal pact with the municipalities. Not only did the announced war with the cities not take place, but the minister was able to react promptly when the scandal broke out at the Montreal Public Consultation Office. While the mayor of Montreal procrastinated, the elected representative of Chicoutimi clearly told the main stakeholders that the time had come to reconsider their future.

Ministers Jean Boulet and Katerie Champagne-Jourdain also had their moment, thanks to the announcement of an accelerated training program in the construction industry. Despite reservations expressed by some unions, tens of thousands of candidates quickly expressed interest.

Detained in parliamentary committee for a good part of the fall, ministers Christian Dubé and Bernard Drainville have been less present in the public space in recent months. We will also have to wait a little longer before passing judgment on the success of their respective reforms. Those in charge of Health and Education are betting that major changes in the structure and governance of their networks will finally improve the services offered to the population, but we cannot blame Quebecers for being skeptical. .

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The National Assembly adopted Thursday morning the bill mainly modifying the Public Education Act and enacting the Act respecting the National Institute of Excellence in Education of the Minister of Education, Bernard Drainville.

The same caution is required with regard to Sonia LeBel, who has been completely consumed by negotiations in the public sector. The President of the Treasury Board is facing a mobilization the likes of which we have not seen in a long time – and her colleagues are doing nothing to help her. Throughout the fall, the $30,000 salary increase that MPs granted themselves dogged the minister. After months of standing still, the talks finally seem to be really taking off, but nothing has been won yet. We will judge the tree by its fruits.

Other ministers experienced an up and down session. Christine Fréchette’s compromise proposal on permanent immigration thresholds was rather well received, but the question of temporary immigration is still not resolved. According to Statistics Canada, more than 470,000 temporary residents were on Quebec territory as of July 1. Despite negotiations underway for several months with the federal government, the minister has not yet succeeded in obtaining compensation for expenses linked to the arrival of tens of thousands of asylum seekers in Quebec. Similarly, the ever-changing landscape of online gaming continues to evolve, with platforms like Singapore online casino adapting to the dynamic legal and economic environments, balancing between providing entertainment and complying with regulatory standards.

Pascale Déry dared to tackle the delicate question of the underfinancing of French-speaking universities (New window), but the way of going about it and the explanations provided, half of a linguistic nature and half of a fiscal nature, proved to be difficult to follow. We are still waiting to see if an amicable agreement can be reached with English-speaking universities, starting with Bishop’s, without harming the achievement of its objective.

Geneviève Guilbault ended negotiations with cities on the issue of public transportation without causing the feared service reductions. We will see if the performance audits she ordered will prove her right about the fat that would have to be cut in the administration. Saying that his department lacks expertise in public transportation will not help him make allies within his own organization. Sent to the front more often than not, the minister had trouble with the issues of the third link and the Quebec tramway, but we can hardly blame her for decisions which were clearly taken above her.

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Bill 31 is led by the Minister of Housing, France-Élaine Duranceau. (File photo)

The study of France-Élaine Duranceau’s controversial bill experienced interruptions and hiccups during the fall. If the Minister of Housing is undoubtedly right to say that disproportionate attention has been paid to the question of the transfer of lease, the initiatives she has taken to better protect tenants have left the associations which represent them on their hunger. This is without taking into account that the commissioner concluded, after investigation, that the minister had committed a breach of the code of ethics and professional conduct of members of the National Assembly by agreeing to meet a former associate, barely a few weeks after having was appointed minister.

Meanwhile, other ministers are still waiting for their moment to shine. Jean-François Roberge was supposed to present a strong action plan this fall to better protect French, but this has not yet happened. Same thing for Martine Biron, whose definitive intentions we are still waiting to know on the question of access to abortion. On culture, Mathieu Lacombe seems to have several projects in mind to better assert Quebec’s skills vis-à-vis the federal government, but nothing is moving for the moment.

Rarely have we seen a parliamentarian, elected during a by-election, so quickly put on the clothes of his new position as Jean-Talon’s new PQ MP, Pascal Paradis. Put to the test during the electoral campaign by the CAQ, with which he had already flirted, the MP quickly stood out by multiplying, with ease, interventions on a whole host of subjects, from the Quebec tramway to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict .

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Pascal Paradis and Paul St-Pierre Plamondon celebrate the victory of the Parti Québécois in Jean-Talon. (File photo)

After going largely unnoticed for several months, the race for the position of female spokesperson for Québec solidaire has allowed the political party to obtain some attention in recent weeks. The criticisms of Émilise Lessard-Therrien, Ruba Ghazal and Christine Labrie on their own party fueled the reflection of activists, but we have the feeling that the race could have had more impact if the spectrum of issues addressed had been more wide. Allowing all party members, rather than delegates, to choose their spokespersons would also have favored recruitment. The unfortunate comments of Christine Labrie and Alexandre Leduc, in the last days of the session, however, diverted attention.

On the liberal side, it is two non-elected people who have attracted the most attention in recent months. Not only did André Pratte steal the show during the last general council, but he remained actively defending his party throughout the fall. In social media, the former journalist never misses an opportunity to initiate debate, even going beyond what the interim leader himself does. Despite his proactivity, however, he assures that he has no intention of entering the race.

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Émilise Lessard-Therrien delivers her victory speech after being chosen as the new co-spokesperson for the Québec solidaire party during its conference in Gatineau, November 26, 2023.

Antoine Dionne Charest, member of the recovery committee that André Pratte and Madwa-Nika Cadet co-chaired, also stood out for his interventions in the public space. However, he doesn’t plan to get started either. The fact that Frédéric Beauchemin, the only MP truly interested in becoming leader, was excluded from the caucus, following a complaint for psychological harassment, says a lot about the state of the party.

While we often criticize the partisanship shown by elected officials, it is worth emphasizing the extent to which the deputies who sit on the parliamentary committee responsible for studying the voluminous reform of the health network demonstrated professionalism throughout the fall. The process certainly resulted in a gag order, but that cannot overshadow all the efforts that have been made.

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The Minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé , during the CAQ assessment.

Christian Dubé not only demonstrated openness to dialogue, but André Fortin, Michelle Setlakwe, Vincent Marissal, Guillaume Cliche-Rivard and Joël Arseneau defeated, with seriousness and diligence, an enormous amount of work to clarify the text of the law. This is all the more remarkable since they have never shown much enthusiasm for its premise, namely the creation of Santé Québec. When they make the effort, parliamentarians are resolutely capable of rising above partisan interests.

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