CAQ’S AGENDA COULD HAUNT FEDERAL PARTIES IN QUEBEC
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.
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François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec government would like to reduce provincial immigration next year to 40,000, down from 52,000.