CAQ’S AGENDA COULD HAUNT FED­ERAL PAR­TIES IN QUE­BEC

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For the first time in 42 years, the cur­tain rose on the open­ing speech of a new party gov­ern­ing in Que­bec’s na­tional assem­bly Wed­nes­day. The cir­cum­stances could not have been more dif­fer­ent than in 1976.

Back then, the elec­tion of a Parti Québé­cois govern­ment had sent shock waves across the coun­try.

It pro­pelled the unity is­sue to the fore­front of the Cana­dian po­lit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tion. There it re­mained for al­most half a cen­tury.

As re­cently as 2014, the pos­si­bil­ity of the elec­tion of a ma­jor­ity PQ govern­ment un­der Pauline Marois prompted then-prime min­is­ter Stephen Harper to un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally

reach out to the pre­miers and to the main fed­eral op­po­si­tion lead­ers for ad­vice as to how to thwart the sce­nario of an­other ref­er­en­dum.

By com­par­i­son, lit­tle drama at­tended the de­liv­ery by Pre­mier François Le­gault of his Coali­tion Avenir Québec govern­ment’s open­ing speech on Wed­nes­day. The next Que­bec/ Canada chap­ter is to be writ­ten by fed­er­al­ists at both the

pro­vin­cial and fed­eral lev­els.

At its peak in the mid-1990s, the sovereignty move­ment boasted 131 MPs and MNAs. The PQ formed a ma­jor­ity govern­ment in Que­bec and the Bloc Québé­cois made up the of­fi­cial Op­po­si­tion in Par­lia­ment. To­day there are 30 elected sovereign­tists left on the scene, in­clud­ing the 10 in the House of Com­mons.

And while Le­gault is not a nat­u­ral ally of Justin Trudeau’s Lib­er­als, his re­la­tion­ship with the prime min­is­ter is — at least for now — less ad­ver­sar­ial than that of On­tario Pre­mier Doug Ford. When it comes to fed­eral-pro­vin­cial re­la­tions, it is a bit as if Que­bec had traded places with On­tario.

But the CAQ still stands to shape the next elec­tion’s con­ver­sa­tion in ways that could be chal­leng­ing for the main fed­er­al­ist par­ties — start­ing with Trudeau’s Lib­er­als.

Im­mi­gra­tion dom­i­nated the re­cent Que­bec cam­paign and many ob­servers ex­pect it to resur­face in the lead-up to next fall’s fed­eral vote.

They could be right but it is not yet a given. Since the pro­vin­cial elec­tion, the two govern­ments have opened ne­go­ti­a­tions on Le­gault’s bid to re­duce Que­bec’s im­mi­gra­tion in­take. He’s set to bring it down to 40,000 from 52,000 next year. He would like part of the cut to come from the fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion and refugee in­takes that are con­trolled by Ot­tawa.

IM­MI­GRA­TION DOM­I­NATED THE RE­CENT QUE­BEC CAM­PAIGN.

JACQUES BOISSINOT/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

François Le­gault’s Coali­tion Avenir Québec govern­ment would like to re­duce pro­vin­cial im­mi­gra­tion next year to 40,000, down from 52,000.

Chan­tal Hébert

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