Back to Parliament: François Legault will unveil his game plan on Wednesday

QUEBEC CITY — We shouldn’t expect any big surprises from the inaugural speech to be delivered Wednesday afternoon at the Salon Bleu by Premier François Legault.

It’s a safe bet that this speech, which will constitute the government’s game plan for the next four years, will have the air of deja vu, in continuity with the previous mandate. Let us remember that the electoral slogan of the Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ), the party that has formed the government since 2018, was “Let’s continue”.

The new parliamentary session, which begins on Tuesday, will in fact be a flash mini-session, dispatched in just eight days, until December 9, which is very little time to legislate. The parliamentarians will hardly have time to get to know each other, and for many of them, to familiarize themselves with the premises, if only to know which chair has been assigned to them, that they will already be called elsewhere.

It is expected that only two bills will be tabled in the coming days, the first, to fight inflation, by setting an annual cap of 3% increase in government tariffs (driver’s license, registration, etc.), the second proclaiming that the oath to King Charles III, an essential condition for sitting in the National Assembly, would become optional.

On Tuesday, the resumption of work will give way to the election of the President of the Assembly. It is an open secret that it is the member for Montarville, the former Minister of Culture, Nathalie Roy, who will hold the position. Before her, only one other woman had been president of the National Assembly, Louise Harel, from 2002 to 2003. She will be surrounded by three vice-presidents: Chantal Soucy (Saint-Hyacinthe), who will go from second to first vice-president , Sylvain Lévesque (Chauveau), who will become 2nd vice-president and Frantz Benjamin (Viau), who will hold the position of 3rd vice-president, a position reserved for the official opposition.

Ms. Roy risks having to learn her new profession quickly, as she will probably be called upon before long to decide on several delicate subjects: the fate to be reserved for the three PQ deputies, who have not taken the oath to King Charles III, the place to be granted to the leader of the Conservative Party of Quebec Éric Duhaime, even if he is not elected, and above all the relevance of carrying out a vast parliamentary reform, increasingly demanded by the political class, all parties combined.

The next day, Wednesday afternoon, it will be the Prime Minister’s turn to announce his colors. In November 2018, during his first inaugural speech, a river speech lasting more than an hour, Mr. Legault had insisted on the importance of not being afraid of change and of being bold.

Education was to be the top priority, especially with the opening of 4-year-old kindergarten classes made available to all children, a promise not kept. Anxious to reject any “fatalistic” attitude, he also said he wanted to tackle the problem of the shortage of manpower in the education network, a problem that has continued to grow ever since.

Another promise not kept, the reform of the voting system, a topic that has come back to the news since the October 3 election, and which has aroused discontent in the ranks of the opposition, with the significant distortion observed between the popular vote obtained by each party and the number of seats obtained.

In health, Mr. Legault remained rather vague in 2018, promising better access to doctors, an objective which remains more relevant than ever, and promising increased investment in home care. Since then, the waiting list to appear on a family doctor’s patient list has continued to grow, as have waiting times in the emergency room or for surgery.

In 2018, reducing the tax burden on taxpayers was also identified as a government priority. Four years later, it will still be the case. Finance Minister Eric Girard will provide an update on December 8 on Québec’s economic and financial situation. We will see if he has planned new measures to lighten the tax burden of Quebeckers.

Its update will be made public in the context of an expected decline in the inflation rate in the coming months and a marked economic slowdown expected in 2023.

At the same time, the government will play Santa Claus, fulfilling its promise to send checks to taxpayers, faced with inflation: $600 for those with an income of less than $50,000 in 2021 and $400 for those whose annual income was between $50,000 and $100,000. This will be non-recurring financial aid, paid in the coming weeks, which will relieve the public treasury of some $3.5 billion.

A new assembly

The National Assembly resulting from the October 3 election will be quite different from the previous one. Of the 125 deputies who will sit there as of Tuesday, 37 will set foot there for the first time, including eight ministers and a party leader, surely all excited at the idea of ​​playing their new role as elected officials and in a hurry to know all the workings of parliament and its many regulations.

Prime Minister Legault wanted a strong mandate and he got it, having elected 90 deputies, thereby reducing the place and expected strike force of the opposition parties during the current mandate.

The leader of the Parti Québécois (PQ) and deputy for Camille-Laurin, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, is one of the recruits and he will have to familiarize himself with his new role as leader of the third opposition group. On Monday, we still did not know if he himself, and the two other elected PQ members, Joël Arseneau and Pascal Bérubé, would be present at the Blue Salon, having not fulfilled one of the required conditions, namely to take an oath to King Charles III .

The Liberal MP for LaFontaine, Marc Tanguay, will have to get used to playing his new role as leader of the official opposition, having to regularly challenge the prime minister during question period, and interim Liberal leader.

One thing is certain, as of Tuesday, the Liberal opposition will have to put aside its internal quarrels to focus on criticizing government actions. Since the bitter defeat of October 3, the Liberal team has been going through a major crisis, which resulted in the resignation of the leader, Dominique Anglade, and the expulsion of the MNA for Vaudreuil, Marie-Claude Nichols, now independent. The Liberal caucus has gone from 21 to 19 MPs.

The upcoming leadership race in the Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) over the coming year will no doubt also become a source of distraction for the official opposition, at the risk of neglecting its role as a critic of the actions of the government.

The new version of the National Assembly will also be more feminine than ever, with 57 elected out of 125, or 45% of the total.

With the departure of Dominique Anglade, there will already be a vacant seat as of December 1, Saint-Henri-Sainte-Anne, which should lead to the holding of a by-election by the spring.

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