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PLQ interim leader calls Denis Coderre a 'quality candidate' for leadership

Former Montreal mayor Denis Coderre takes part in a debate with Mayor Valérie Plante, Wednesday, September 29, 2021 in Montreal. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz) Former Montreal mayor Denis Coderre takes part in a debate with Mayor Valérie Plante, Wednesday, September 29, 2021 in Montreal. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz)
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Former Montreal mayor Denis Coderre is a "quality candidate" for the Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) leadership, according to interim leader Marc Tanguay.

"I'm not at all surprised (...) For me, it's confirmation that there are quality people in Quebec who are thinking about running," he told The Canadian Press on the eve of the PLQ pre-sessional caucus in Thetford Mines.

He calls Coderre's consideration for the Liberal leadership "good news."

Two weeks ago, Denis confirmed that he hadn't ruled out running for the party's top job.

The former federal minister says he will make his decision after his travels to Compostela, Spain in May.

Tanguay points out that the race has not yet been officially launched, and he is confident that other candidates will raise their hands.

"We can't wait for the debates to take place," he said, adding that he will remain neutral during the race.

There's one other person who has publicly said he could be interested: Frédéric Beauchemin, the Liberal MNA for Marguerite-Bourgeoys.

Beauchemin was recently reinstated to the Liberal caucus after being excluded last October due to complaints of psychological harassment lodged against him by Élyse Moisan, president of the Liberal Party Youth Commission.

"I'm happy to see that mediation was successful and that the complaints have been withdrawn," said Tanguay. "I'm happy to have Fred Beauchemin back."

However, Tanguay says he is cautious about the terms of the MNA's reinstatement.

"I'm going to keep the discussions I've had with Fred to myself... I'm not going to comment any further, because the situation is behind us," he said.

Federal Liberal MP Joël Lightbound says he has not yet ruled out entering the leadership race.

Tanguay, as well as Monsef Derraji, Marwah Rizqy and André Fortin, have all said they are not interested.

The next Liberal leader will be chosen in the spring of 2025.

Immigration

Immigration and the housing crisis are currently the two biggest issues facing the province.

While Tanguay acknowledges that the two issues are linked, he blames the situation on François Legault's Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government.

"With the number of new arrivals, it's clear that we need more public services and housing," he said. "We can't turn our backs to this bad government, which failed to act when it should have... We must ensure that immigration is controlled."

There are currently more than half a million temporary immigrants in Quebec.

Last Wednesday, Parti Québécois (PQ) Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon said his party would re-evaluate its permanent immigration thresholds, currently set at 35,000 new arrivals per year, arguing that the situation had changed significantly since the last election.

Tanguay says he would also revise the PLQ's permanent immigration target.

In the previous election, the PLQ wanted to increase the number to 70,000 new arrivals per year.

"The question of thresholds (for permanent immigrants) becomes theoretical when there are 500,000 temporary workers in Quebec," said the Liberal leader, adding that temporary immigrants are essential to the current labour shortage.

Hydro-Québec

Radio-Canada reported on Saturday that the CAQ government was preparing a bill to allow private companies to sell their electricity to each other, allowing Hydro-Québec to buy their surpluses.

"It's an important debate. We've been calling for a national conversation on our energy future in Quebec for over a year, and this clearly needs to be part of the debate," he said. "The future of Hydro-Québec can't just be decided by François Legault and [Economy, Innovation and Energy Minister] Pierre Fitzgibbon behind closed doors."

The PLQ says it intends to use its caucus, which runs from Jan. 23 to 25, to set the tone for the next parliamentary session.

The party says it plans to follow the government's lead when it comes to the economy and small and medium-sized enterprises (SME). 

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