2023 Fall Parliamentary Session in Quebec City: the CAQ Government’s Challenges

The Quebec National Assembly resumes sitting on September 12, 2023. The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government has several major legislative projects on the table. Added to these are negotiations with the public sector and a tight by-election in the Jean-Talon riding. Here's a political roundup of the fall season in Quebec City.

Healthcare reform

Bill 15, discussed more explicitly in a previous blog, is causing a stir among healthcare professionals and unions. It aims to make the healthcare system more efficient by reviewing its organization and governance, through the creation of the Santé Québec agency. Better use of data, fewer union bargaining tables and proximity management are on the menu. The bill is expected to be adopted under the guillotine, given its 300 pages and hundreds of amendments tabled a few weeks before the new session of the National Assembly.

Renewal of collective agreements

The government is negotiating with 600,000 public sector employees. Pressure tactics are already underway by certain central labour bodies, such as the Fédération autonome de l’enseignement, which represents 65,000 teachers. Some demands are diametrically opposed to those of the government. The Prime Minister has indicated that the government’s ability to pay is not sufficient for some of the demands. Labor disputes are looming on the horizon this fall. Treasury Board President Sonia Lebel will have her work cut out for her.

Construction industry reform

Labor Minister Jean Boulet is looking to reform the regulation of the construction workforce, in a context of labor shortages and the need for infrastructure development. He is expected to table a bill to this effect this fall. Productivity enhancement, recognition of prior learning and deregulation of construction craft shifts should be on the agenda.

Modernization of agricultural regulations

André Lamontagne, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, published an open letter this summer announcing consultations on agricultural land and activities. Following the report, due to be published in March 2024, he is expected to modernize the Loi sur la protection du territoire et des activités agricoles. The Règlement sur les exploitations agricoles should also be modernized, to make farming practices more sustainable. Consultations in this regard will continue until this fall.

Energy efficiency

Energy minister Pierre Fitzgibbon is expected to table his bill on energy sobriety this fall. At current rates, Hydro-Québec would no longer have enough electricity by 2050 to meet the province’s needs. The aim of the bill would be to encourage a reduction in electricity demand without penalizing Quebec consumers. New power generation projects could also be launched.

Consultation on immigration targets

A consultation on Quebec’s immigration targets will begin this fall. On the one hand, employers are calling for an increase in thresholds to address labor shortages. On the other, French language advocates fear that higher thresholds would accelerate the decline of French in Quebec. A gradual increase of 50,000 immigrants to 60,000 per year by 2027 is envisaged, or the current threshold could be maintained until the same year.

By-election in Jean-Talon

François Legault’s CAQ and Paul Saint-Pierre Plamondon’s Parti Québécois (PQ) are neck-and-neck in the polls for this by-election. The CAQ has not lost a seat in a by-election since its government was elected, and the PQ is trying to establish itself as the alternative to the government. The historically Liberal riding could swing either way on October 2. The presence of these two parties on the ground could prove vital, as mentioned in an earlier Capital Hill Group blog.

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