The members of the Coalition Avenir Québec met for their convention on May 13 and 14 in Sherbrooke. They notably voted on resolutions on energy and taxation for youth and seniors. Party leader François Legault submitted to a vote of confidence for the first time since 2014, obtaining historic support of 98.61%. All indications are that the CAQ leader will run again in the 2026 election.
The Premier intends to build the economy of tomorrow in Quebec through various measures. The creation of innovation zones, notably in the fields of green hydrogen, batteries, digital technologies, and quantum sciences, is evidence of the province’s economic shift towards niches where it can shine. New hydroelectric dams are under consideration and the government is focusing on energy efficiency to achieve its carbon neutrality target by 2050. The Quebec government is intensifying its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Its Plan for a Green Economy – 2030 includes a $3.8 billion investment to accelerate the electrification of transportation and an additional $213 million for climate change adaptation, totalling nearly $861 million.
Party members did not hold the party in contempt of the broken promise of a third highway link between Quebec City and Lévis. A May poll showed the CAQ’s voting intentions dropping from 40% to 26% in the Quebec City area, while the Parti Québécois took the lead at 28%. The PQ has been rising in recent polls at the expense of the CAQ. The CAQ remains in first place in Quebec with 36% of voting intentions, down 4% since February, while the PQ increased by 4% to 22%, in second place. The Quebec Liberal Party and Québec solidaire have stalled since the last election.
Despite their caucus being reduced to three members, the Parti Québécois is more successful than the other opposition parties. That is why François Legault focused his attacks on it during his speech at the convention. Rather than relying on sovereignty to advance Quebec, the CAQ is rallying nationalists and acting now with Quebec’s powers to protect its identity. François Legault’s goal is to ensure that Quebec selects economic immigrants that speak French and then obtain full immigration powers from Ottawa.
In this regard, the Minister of Immigration announced several changes in immigration: she opened the door to an increase to 60,000 new permanent residents per year, rather than the current threshold of 50,000 immigrants. Foreign students will benefit from streamlining to speed up their application for permanent residency. Economic immigrants will be required to have a better knowledge of French to be admitted to the two main channels for this type of immigration. Finally, Quebec will require an integration plan that includes francization courses for family reunification.
The end of the National Assembly’s session is marked by some ministerial missteps. Éric Caire, Minister of Cybersecurity and Digital Affairs and MNA for La Peltrie, in the Quebec City region, was criticized for his management of the SAAQ driver’s license crisis. The digital shift of the organization planned for a long time, has failed. Thousands of Quebecers went to their local branch to obtain services instead of doing the procedures online, costing at least 2.6 million dollars in overtime to pay employees during the crisis. Opposition parties are calling ad nauseam for the resignation of the minister, whom the Prime Minister still trusts.
The abandonment of a third link highway between Quebec City and Lévis also made Mr. Caire sweat, but so did the entire Quebec City CAQ caucus. Mr. Caire had pledged to resign if the project was abandoned, but he did not. Deputy Premier and Minister of Transportation Geneviève Guilbault then played a game during the supply process by using unusual words. Opposition parties cried out for the Minister’s lack of respect and professionalism. In their opinion, and shared by political analysts, the government is beginning to show signs of being consumed by power and arrogance.
Finally, Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette is currently under investigation by the Ethics Commissioner for the appointment of a close friend as judge of the Court of Quebec. This follows a complaint by Liberal MNA Monsef Derraji. The Minister had failed to declare that he was his friend at the time of his appointment, even though it wasn’t required by law. The CAQ’s ministers are starting to get into the habit of misbehaving, but not to the point of influencing the electorate’s opinion. The CAQ even slightly increased its voting intentions and satisfaction rate in the most recent pol.