Quebec election: Legault’s strained relationship with Ottawa now set to continue


The re-election of Francois Legault in Quebec on Monday night means an already frosty relationship between his government and Ottawa is likely to continue, experts say.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau congratulated Legault after the Quebec premier’s Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) was set to form a second majority government, pledging to work together moving forward. But legal challenges and a looming fight over immigration are sure to test that promise.

« I don’t think these tensions will subside as long as the Liberals stay in power in Ottawa and Legault and the CAQ stay in power in Quebec, » said Daniel Beland, a professor of political science at McGill University.

« There are just fundamental differences between them in the way they see the federation. »

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Legault’s first term saw his nationalist agenda repeatedly clash with Trudeau’s Liberal government, including when the prime minister and members of his cabinet openly criticized Quebec’s secularism law, known as the Bill 21, and Bill 96, which strengthens protections for the French language. .

Both bills are currently before Quebec courts, and Ottawa has promised to join a legal challenge to Bill 21 if it reaches the Supreme Court of Canada.

Legault was also one of the most vocal prime ministers calling on Trudeau to increase federal funding for health care, which was met with resistance from the Liberals. Legault went further, insisting that any top-up health transfer must also respect Quebec’s ability to manage its own health care system without federal interference.

In the 2021 federal election, Legault even went so far as to say that then-Conservative leader Erin O’Toole would be easier to work as prime minister, calling the Liberals, NDP and Greens « dangerous » for nationalist interests.

Click to play the video: 'Quebec elections: battle for second place as Legault leads the polls'

Election in Quebec: Battle for second place as Legault leads the polls

Election in Quebec: Battle for second place as Legault leads the polls

Now that Legault is set to serve as prime minister for the rest of Trudeau’s current term, more fights are expected in the years to come.

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More importantly, Legault has drawn attention with his drive to strengthen immigration powers over family reunification — a responsibility currently shared between the provincial and federal governments — in order to limit the migration of non-French speakers to Quebec.

Last spring, when Legault promised to make the dispute a campaign issue, Trudeau said he had no intention of giving up any of those powers.

“It is clear that a country must have a say in its immigration,” he told reporters at the time, assuring that the protection of French and Francophone immigration was “very important” for his government.

Still, Legault doubled down on his demand during the campaign, including not ruling out the possibility of a referendum on the issue. He also drew criticism from voters and members of the federal Liberal caucus saying that non-French-speaking immigration to the province is a threat to « national cohesion. »

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Quebec election: Federal minister says Legault divides Quebecers on immigration

Quebec currently accepts approximately 50,000 immigrants per year. Going beyond that number would be “suicidal,” Legault said last week, because it would be impossible to properly integrate them and teach them French.

“It was a good topic of discussion during the campaign … but I’m not too sure that (Legault) will make a fuss about it,” said André Lecours, professor of political science at the University of Ottawa.

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Although Legault has claimed that family reunification cases represent at least 20% of all immigrants entering Quebec each year, Lecours says most Quebecers agree that this would not create as great a threat to French as the Prime Minister claims so.

Lecours predicts that the real dispute between Quebec and Ottawa will come in ongoing legal battles over Bills 21 and 96, and whether the federal government follows through on its promise to join any federal appeals.

« There will be a structural collision there…and I don’t think the Prime Minister wants that, but it will probably happen at some point, » he said.

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Trudeau’s Liberals vulnerable to Francophonie issues

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Beland says Legault could also cause federal Liberals headaches by continuing to align himself with other right-wing prime ministers across the country, like Ontario Premier Doug Ford, not just on the immigration, but also on health care financing and economic issues.

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He could also find solidarity with the next premier of Alberta, where candidates to replace United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney have made various pleas for their own sovereignty.

“These are all things that Liberals in Ottawa are very aware of,” Beland said.

Ford was quick to congratulate « my friend » Legault on his election victory Monday night on Twitter. Fellow right-wing premiers Scott Moe of Saskatchewan and Heather Stefanson of Manitoba also celebrated Legault’s victory.

The expansion of Legault’s mandate after Monday’s vote – increasing the number of CAQ seats in the National Assembly from 74 to 90 – will also be a factor moving forward.

Click to play the video: 'Quebec Elections 2022: François Legault's CAQ wins another majority government in the Global News projection'

Quebec elections 2022: François Legault’s CAQ wins another majority government in the Global News projection

Quebec elections 2022: François Legault’s CAQ wins another majority government in the Global News projection

Although Trudeau and his government have pushed back on some of Legault’s more nationalistic moves, Beland adds the Liberals must be careful not to ignite an intergovernmental war with the heavily backed premier of a vote-rich province.

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He expects other attempts to raise awareness, such as proposed changes to the Official Languages ​​Act last year that would boost French immersion classes across the country and some French language protections in places. federal work in the years to come.

“As long as Legault remains popular, Trudeau and the Liberals will have a strong incentive to … meet in the middle and remain diplomatic on certain issues,” he said.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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