CAQ putting emphasis on team with election on horizon
The Coalition Avenir Quebec is meeting in Ste. Adele this week to prepare for the spring session of the National Assembly -- but more importantly, to lay the groundwork for this year's provincial election.
Leader Francois Legault is putting the emphasis on his team and presented a new slogan: the team of change.
Legault began the two-day meeting by telling MNAs and other that he hopes they are well-rested because there will not be any vacation until after October 1, the date of the vote.
CAQ is doing well in polls and believes it could form next government; a new poll by Mainstreet Research shows the CAQ ahead with 32 per cent of the vote, the Liberal Party just behind that at 31 per cent, the PQ lagging behind at 18 per cent, and Quebec solidaire at 15 per cent.
The party said it recognizes it needs to break the perception that Legault is a one-man show. It's a challenge that another third party, the ADQ, faced a decade ago, when Quebecers decided that Mario Dumont did not have a strong enough team to become government.
Legault is trying to counter that idea by sharing the spotlight, or giving it up altogether, in presenting other members of his party.
On Monday Dr. Lionel Carmant, a neurologist at Ste. Justine Hospital, addressed the caucus. He has been asked by the party to create a strategy to identify learning disabilities in children at an earlier age.
Dr. Carmant, the son of Haitian immigrants, has not yet come forward as a political candidate, but is nevertheless being touted as a possible pick for health minister in a CAQ government.
Legault said he is actively trying to recruit candidates who are members of visible minorities.
"We'll announce in the next few months people from different communities so I would like that they be represented and that they be in ridings that we can win," he said.
Carmant said he wants to change perceptions of the party.
“I truly hope so, and I want our communities to be involved as well,” he said, adding that he backs Legault’s position on immigration.
“I think we need to improve the way we perform the immigration process to help everybody who comes into Quebec succeed and to be an active part of the community and for that reason I would agree to slowing down the number of immigrants and improving the quality of how we integrate them into the community,” he said.
Meanwhile at its caucus the CAQ is also planning to discuss its proposal to abolish school boards--a position that draws a lot of ire from anglophone groups who point out that linguistic schoolboards are entrenched in the constitution.
“The anglophone community, they don't have to worry because they'll have nine service centres instead of nine schoolboards and we will give more power to English schools. And I think it's good for them, good for the children, good for the parents, good for everybody,” he said.
Quebec anglophone groups disagree:
"We are disappointed that the CAQ would display such little knowledge or understanding of Quebec's English-speaking community and the vast importance we place on the control and management of minority language schools," said the Quebec Community Groups Network in a statement.
“Our entire community has successfully fought to preserve their rights and make their voices heard. The education plan presented by the CAQ is an affront to our community and democracy as a whole," added the Quebec English School Boards Association.
Legault argues voter turnout for school board elections shows the weakness of the system.
“It's very, very low and it's not, for me, real democracy,” he said.
Legault is facing an uphill battle on that issue: when the Liberals tried to push for schoolboard reform with Bill 86, the backlash was so strong the government was eventually forced to backtrack and scrap its proposed changes.