Quebec News and Updates – November 3, 2023

An overview of Quebec's news and updates for the week of October 28 - November 3, 2023.​

Public Consultation on Cybersecurity

The Quebec government has launched a public consultation on cybersecurity, which will run from November 1 to 30. Organized by the Ministry of Cybersecurity and Digital Affairs, this public consultation will enable the Quebec government to solicit a large number of stakeholders as well as the general population on cybersecurity issues and needs. Municipalities, private companies, public agencies, non-profit organizations, the academic and research communities, and individual citizens are invited to express their views. The information gathered will be used to identify strategic areas of intervention and propose concrete initiatives to strengthen Quebec’s cybersecurity.

Guidelines on the Criteria for Valid Consent by The Access to Information Commission

The Access to Information Commission has published the final version of its guidelines on the criteria for valid consent. Bill 25 confers upon the Commission the new function of developing guidelines to facilitate the application of the Act respecting access to documents held by public bodies and the protection of personal information, as well as the Act respecting the protection of personal information in the private sector. The Commission has established eight criteria for the validity of consent, which public and private organizations that need to obtain consent from individuals to use or disclose their personal information must meet. This Commission document has been drawn up in the context of the coming into force of Bill 25, which increases the obligations of organizations concerning the protection of personal information.

Hydro-Quebec 2035 Action Plan

Hydro-Quebec has tabled its Action Plan 2035. The Crown Corporation’s CEO, Michael Sabia, speaks of investments that could reach $185 billion by 2035 – three to four times the current pace.

  • Firstly, Hydro is doubling its energy efficiency target, set less than a year ago, to 21 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2035. To achieve this, it will cover up to 50% of the cost of purchasing energy-efficient equipment.
  • Even so, Hydro-Quebec expects to need an additional 150 to 200 TWh to meet demand by 2050, which means doubling its production capacity. It estimates that three-quarters of these additions will be used to decarbonize Quebec’s energy consumption, and 25% to meet economic growth. 
  • The company also intends to increase production at its existing hydroelectric plants and build new dams. Increased production and transmission capacity alone will cost Hydro-Quebec between $90 and $110 billion. 
  • To this must be added investments of between $45 and $50 billion to improve system reliability, which has declined sharply in recent years. Hydro estimates that the major work planned will require an average of 35,000 workers per year. 
  • To finance the work, the Crown Corporation will look into the possibility of calling on private partners, accelerating rate increases for industrial customers, reducing the dividend paid to the government, and even resorting to “a more flexible rate framework” for large residential consumers.

Public Procurement Authority Report on Transportation Ministry Contract Management

The Public Procurement Authority has issued a report on contract management at the Ministry of Transportation. The report contains 16 corrective measures that will enable the Ministry to better manage its public contracts. The findings are severe: the ministry did not adequately plan maintenance work on certain structures, resulting in emergency tendering of contracts at higher costs. The report also noted a lack of monitoring of the execution of contracts awarded by the Ministry, a lack of consultation between the various directorates of the Ministry during the execution of contracts and the absence of a clear line of conduct as to the directions to be taken, as well as poor practices concerning the contractual rules in force.

CAQ down, PQ up in Latest Poll

Since the Jean-Talon by-election on October 2, polls have shown a marked drop in François Legault’s standing in the eyes of the public. The CAQ is polling at just 30% of voting intentions, down 4 percentage points since October and 11% since the 2022 general election. This is their worst score since their election in 2018. Paul St-Pierre Plamondon’s PQ is directly targeting the CAQ’s support. His party now stands at 26% of voting intentions. The PQ leader is now seen as the best premier. The three other parties have been treading water since the last poll. The CAQ’s sovereignist vote, which represents more or less a third of its support, may be tempted to return to the fold. The PQ occupies the media space with verve, despite its weak deputation. The de facto opposition in Quebec is the PQ, but the next election is still a long way off.

Quebec City's Tramway Project at Risk

Quebec City’s tramway project is at risk. Without Quebec’s political commitment, it won’t happen. Quebec City mayor Bruno Marchand has announced that there are no longer any bidders for the project. The last bidder on the list reportedly abandoned the project because it was unable to secure the required funding. The mayor thus announced his plan B for it, in which the city would be the prime contractor, at an estimated cost of $8.4 billion. Estimates put the bill as high as $12-13 billion. Initially, the project was estimated to cost around $4 billion. The federal government continues to support the project. The mayor of Quebec City is sending the ball back to the Quebec government to support the new version of the project. The latter is not keen on the idea. As the cost of the project has risen dramatically, the government is cautious about committing further public funds. 

New Quebec Immigration Targets

The Quebec government has announced its immigration targets. For next year, Quebec will welcome a maximum of 51,500 immigrants on a regular basis, 6,500 foreign students in the graduate stream of the PEQ program, and 5,400 to 6,600 applications in the business immigration category. This makes a total of 64,600 permanent immigrants. Business stakeholders expressed their disappointment. They say the measures are insufficient to counter the labor shortage that is hitting the province hard. It should be noted that the government is imposing new French language measures on certain temporary immigrants, of whom there are some 466,000 in Quebec, to counter the decline of French. The Legault government is asking the federal government to impose its French tests on immigration categories under its jurisdiction.

Training Offensive for the Construction Industry

The Quebec government has launched a training offensive for the construction industry. The aim is to train an additional 4,000 to 5,000 people in trades that are in high demand on construction sites. An investment of $300 million has been earmarked for this offensive. Four short-term training courses have been created. Students will receive $750 per week in support during their training. The capacity of some vocational programs will be increased in January. Some training programs will offer scholarships ranging from $9,000 to $15,000 upon graduation. The initiative is part of “Operation Workforce”, which has helped bring 22,000 people into the industry since it was launched two years ago.

New Bill on Municipal Taxation

Housing Minister Andrée Laforest has tabled a bill on municipal taxation. It entrenches the annual payment to municipalities of revenues derived from the growth of one point of QST, which will represent $445 million in 2024, $881 million in 2028 and one billion at the turn of 2030, according to estimates by the Finance Ministry. Between 2020 and 2024, Quebec estimates that $826 million will have been transferred to municipalities thanks to this measure. The bill also gives additional powers to municipalities in terms of taxation and housing: it gives cities the green light to impose a tax on vacant or underused housing and vacant lots to address the housing crisis. The bill also extends until 2032 the power of local municipalities and MRCs to provide financial assistance to encourage the construction, renovation and annual rental of rental housing used for residential purposes.

Difficult Negotiations for Public Sector Employees

The government is in negotiations with public service employees, who have voted for strike mandates in recent weeks. The public service is mainly represented by the Union Front, made up of the CSN, the FTQ, the CSQ and the APTS. Treasury Board President Sonia Lebel tabled an offer to the unions earlier this week. She put on the table wage increases of 10.3% over five years for the government’s 600,000 employees, plus bonuses representing 3% for certain categories of workers and a lump sum of $1,000 for everyone in the first year. Quebec thus says that its overall proposal rises from 13% to 14.8% over five years, compared with its first offer. The government is adding $1 billion per year in recurring wage increases for all. The Union Front is calling for recurring salary increases of around 20% over three years. Its request was presented a year ago. It refused the government’s latest offer.

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