Francois Legault's Coalition Avenir Quebec becomes an official party
Published Monday, November 14, 2011 1:09PM EST
After months of promises, consultations and coalition building, a new political party is born in Quebec.
Francois Legault announced on Monday morning that the Coalition pour l'avenir du Quebec is now an official political party with a subtly different name: Coalition Avenir Quebec.
"I am launching this party because I want to give my two boys, and the children of their generation, a strong a vibrant home," said Legault.
"Quebec can and must do better."
Legault has spent the past few months touring the province, meeting Quebecers and presenting several ideas about new directions for governing Quebec.
Those policies were boiled down to five key points: improving education, giving everyone access to a family doctor, improving the economy through exploiting natural resources, cleaning up public contracts, and protecting the French language.
"We will protect the French language by promoting Quebec's creative class."
No independence debate
Legault is taking a move that's sure to be popular with many: shelving the independence debate for a generation.
Legault has said that despite his sovereignist past, he will never hold a referendum on the issue.
"I am not here to promote sovereignty, and I will not take any moves toward reopening constitutional talks," said Legault.
"In Quebec people are not interested in debating this question... We want to tackle the economy, education, and health care."
When asked point-blank if he was a separatist, Legault said "I'm not coming for the next ten years in politics to work on sovereignty, and honestly I define myself right now as a nationalist."
"We have in our party federalists and sovereignists," said Legault.
"Our children or grandchildren will decide if they want to restart this fight or not."
Legault has spoken before that he would consider removing school boards, and said in Quebec city that would be a platform for the party.
"We are planning to abolish school boards, and cut the administrative budget in half to create 'service centres' for schools in a region," said Legault.
The former PQ Education Minister said service centres would be more efficient, but did not get into many details about how they would work.
Legault said this would permit individual schools to focus on ways to cut the dropout rate, without having money tied up in administration.
He would also like to tie pay rates to performance evaluations, effectively creating a merit-based pay stream.
However in a move that will generate controversy in some circles, the CAQ says it will take steps, including the use of the notwithstanding clause, to eliminate so-called 'gateway' schools that allow people to acquire the right to an English public-school education.
Legault says the move should not be seen as an attack against anglophones.
"I think that anglophones are a part of the history of Quebec. Irish, Scottish, Greeks, Italians came here first. They are part of our culture, part of our history," said Legault.
"The only thing we are asking is that we have a common language, a French language, in order to talk to each other."
Last year, after previous laws were thrown out by the Supreme Court of Canada, the Charest government passed legislation allowing children who spend three years in an unsubsidized English private school to continue in the public school system if a team of bureaucrats determine that this is part of their "correct educational pathway."
Legault made a promise that sounds simple but may be hard to implement. "We will give every Quebecer a family doctor."
The CAQ leader says the province's health care system, like the education sector, is weighed down by bureaucracy and needs to be streamlined.
The party is proposing to change how family doctors operate by moving them into "family medicine groups" comprised of doctors, nurses and other caregivers which will handle more patients.
It also wants to abolish health and social service agencies (CSSS) yet give them greater authority to act as front line institutions by altering how they are paid for dealing with patients.
Commissioner of Integrity
With allegations of corruption swirling around public life in this province, and premier Jean Charest finally agreeing last week to launch a full-scale public inquiry into corruption in the construction industry, there was no chance the CAQ would skip a chance to mention corruption in its action plan.
To that end the Coalition is proposing the creation of a Commissioner of Integrity as a parliamentary officer in Quebec, selected by the National Assembly and not by the government.
"I think that we have to make sure that each contract that is given by municipalities or governments is given at a fair price," said Legault, and if not, cities should be able to annul contracts and hold another bidding process.
No MNAs until next year
It's not the first political party to be created this year, not even the first to be created by a former MNA for the Parti Quebecois, but it is the one led by the most popular politician in the province.
However no MNAs or candidates will likely be named before next year.
"If there are independent deputies which want to join the Coalition, well we admit them, but there will be no MNAs in the national assembly before February," said Legault.
Legault and the centre-right wing ADQ led by Gerard Deltell have held several talks about joining forces, but have yet to come to any agreement.
20-point Action Plan
The full action plan listed by the Coalition on its website is comprised of 20 points focussing on education, health care, culture and language, and targeting corruption.
Some of the measures have already been floated by Legault and his partner Charles Sirois, but the action plan lays them out in easy-to-read language.
- 2. Abolish school boards
- 5. Give every Quebecer a family doctor
- 10. Increased investments in Quebec from the Caisse de depot
- 13. Economic development strategy for Montreal and Quebec city
- 16. Limit of 45,000 immigrants for two years
- 17. Reinforcing powers of Office de la langue francaise
- 18. Using notwithstanding clause to abolish gateway schools
- 20. Revise rules concerning awarding public contracts
Premier Jean Charest said Legault's action plan is largely without substance, and did not appear impressed Monday.
"He had a whole year to reflect on what his plan would be and the only thing he has to say is, ‘We'll see.' That's what he has to say -- and he has a new logo. That's it," said Charest.
Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois, who once sat in cabinet alongside Legault, said he betrayed his nationalist ideals.
Marois also challenged Legault's guts, deriding him on his decision to not to put forth a candidate in a December by-election to replace former deputy premier Nathalie Normandeau, who stepped down in September.
"I think he has a lack of courage, because he didn't decide to send a candidate in the partial election of Bonaventure," she said.