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A first full session about to test the CAQ supermajority


For its first real full session, the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) government will be able to test the effects of its supermajority in the national assembly on the smooth running of parliamentary business and the results it has promised the population.

During this session, which opens on Tuesday and ends on June 9, there will be a lot of talk about improving the health and education networks, the labour shortage and inflation.

The CAQ's overwhelming dominance over divided opposition parties is a nice gift for Premier François Legault, who is celebrating 25 years in politics this year.

But it also has its pitfalls: in addition to the wear and tear of power that always awaits a government in its second term, there are fewer and fewer excuses for not providing tangible solutions in the areas of health and education.

The house sat last fall after the CAQ won a landslide victory on Oct. 3, but it only lasted two weeks.

Legault said recently that the short session last autumn was just a "practice session" for his team to make sure that all the new recruits were familiar with how parliament works.

There are many newcomers in this legislature.

The CAQ won the general election by taking 90 seats out of 125, well above the 74 it took in 2018. This leaves only 35 seats for the other three parties in the house: 21 for the Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ), which forms the official opposition, 11 for Québec Solidaire (QS) and three for the Parti Québécois (PQ).

The CAQ leader has already announced his colours for the next few months and even years. He gave many clues, notably at the pre-sessional caucus meeting of CAQ elected officials in Laval last week.

Of course, there is the labour shortage that affects all of Quebec and that the premier wants to solve, notably with 100 per cent francophone immigration - a challenge, he admits himself.

Legault also telegraphed on Friday that he intends to ask the unions for more flexibility to solve the lack of bodies in the health and education networks.

The request is being made in the midst of negotiations for the renewal of public sector collective agreements that expire at the end of March.

Minister of Education Bernard Drainville has already given a taste of the scenarios being considered.

He is proposing to add a second adult in the classroom, a childcare worker, to help teachers who are overwhelmed by the special needs of their students. The minister unveiled the seven priorities he wants to work on, but he will have to announce in the coming months how they will be implemented and how much they will cost.

Furthermore, Legault recently issued a serious warning to the industries after several warning signs previously. Quebec no longer intends to automatically grant the Preferred Rate L to large electricity consumers.

The rate could now be modulated according to efforts to reduce consumption and greenhouse gases (GHG).

The government will take this route because it must reduce GHG emissions in accordance with its international obligations, but also because Hydro-Québec's surpluses are dwindling.

A bill should be tabled for the revision of industrial rates next fall.

In the meantime, on Tuesday morning, a parliamentary commission will resume its study of a controversial bill aimed at capping the increase in residential electricity rates according to inflation.

The CAQ government has also expressed other clear legislative intentions in recent months.

A reform of the health-care system as well as a bill on the revision of medical aid are expected.

Minister of Labour Jean Boulet has indicated that he will table legislation in February to regulate child labour. More specifically, he could set the general age of admission to employment at 14 years, on the recommendation of a group of unions and employers' associations.

Finally, Environment Minister Benoit Charette hinted that he would introduce a bill to increase water charges, which are ridiculously low in Quebec.

Legault said last week that he had no intention of marking 25 years in politics this year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Jan. 31, 2023. Top Stories

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