The third week of the Quebec election campaign saw a dramatic shift in narrative, spurred on by new polling data showing immigration is a big vote winner. The focus until now had been on improving the lives of families and strengthening the education and healthcare systems. Now, immigration and identity are becoming central issues – a development likely to help François Legault and the CAQ.
Recent polling shows the CAQ in majority territory at 35%,and in an attempt to rally the francophone vote, leader François Legault turned his attention to the protection of the French language.
“It’s the responsibility of the Premier of Quebec to protect the nation, to protect the French language in Quebec,” he said this week. “The risk is that our grandchildren won’t speak French. Quebec, in North America, surrounded by hundreds of millions of anglophones, will always be vulnerable.”
The CAQ was also the first party to release its economic plan, with key commitments including an investment of $1 billion in education and health care and putting $1.7 billion back into the pockets of taxpayers. Legault explained that he aims to do so primarily by reducing government waste and cutting school taxes by $700 million.
But instead of taking advantage of the opportunity to sell his economic plan, Legault has spent much of the past few days defending his pledge to roll back immigration numbers from 50,000 to 40,000 per year. Legault’s premise is that the government is in a better position to integrate and take care of the immigrants if it accepts fewer of them. He also reaffirmed his commitment to give immigrants a maximum of 3 years to learn the French language before they are forced out of the province. In a moment of sympathy, Legault exempted elderly immigrants arriving in Quebec to join their families.
PLQ leader Philippe Couillard
has scorned Legault’s proposals to cut immigration, citing labour shortages across the province as a reason to maintain the same number of new entrants per year.
“One of the most fundamental components of what makes an economy grow is the number of people you have to work”, Couillard said. “Each time you remove one immigrant, it’s not only that person you remove from the workforce, it’s their children and their children’s children.”
As part of his bid to turn the immigration/identity issue into an economic one, Couillard committed $10 million over 5 years to help municipalities plan for economic immigration and fill labour shortages. He also announced his plans to impose a foreign investor purchase limit of 100 hectares of agricultural land per year.
PQ leader Jean-François Lisée tried to make his own hay out of the identity issue boiling over, announcing that he would force English CEGEP students take a French proficiency course before they graduate. However, his last few days have been overshadowed by his defence of a candidates past history of racist comments. By now, you’d think political candidates would be smart enough not to make Hitler jokes on social media.
With growing support in urban communities, QS leader Manon Massé took advantage of the shift towards immigration and identity to announce that if elected, her government would invest $560 million over the next four years on a sovereignty project, including a "Constituent Assembly." This would entail the province holding hearings on a new constitution for an independent Quebec.
On Tuesday, September 11, candidates from the PLQ, CAQ, PQ and QS participated in an economic debate, which gave them the opportunity to distinguish their parties’ positions on the economy and taxation, the workforce, immigration, and infrastructure. PLQ candidate and incumbent Finance Minister Carlos Leitao defended his party's economic record, while CAQ candidate Youri Chassin promoted his party’s plans to bring more investment to Quebec, cut government waste, and lower taxes.
- Cut $1.2 billion in spending in first term.
- An economic plan with key commitments including an investment of $1 billion in education and health care and putting $1.7 billion back into the pockets of taxpayers.
- Establish an ‘economic squad’, that will help boost entrepreneurship.
- Implement single school tax across the province, to save the province $700 million.
- Commit $30 million for school textbooks and outings and $5 million for school libraries.
- "Baby Bonus": an extra $1,200 per child for families that have a combined income of $107,000 or less.
- Create 50,000 additional public childcare spaces.
- Commit $93 million to caregivers by doubling their tax credit.
- Reduce the time it takes to see a family doctor, or another medical specialist to 36 hours for non-emergency patients, by restructuring the way doctors are paid.
- Commit $36 million for the reimbursement of eyeglasses or contact lenses for minors under 18 years, up to a maximum of $250 every two years.
- Commit $22 million to boost a government aid program for parents of severely disabled children.
- Replace the dreaded CHSLD (nursing home system) with a new Seniors Home system to improve care and reduce wait times.
- Commit $200 million per year for 4 years to improve home care and help seniors stay in their homes longer.
- Adopt a ‘secularism charter within the first year that would prohibit state employees such as teachers, judges and police officers from wearing conspicuous religious symbols at work.
- Give immigrants 3 years to learn the French language and offer free programs for them to do so.
- Commit to a 20% immigration cut in each category of people arriving in 2019.
- Commit $400 million for province-wide internet and cell phone access.
- Commit to beginning construction on a 3rd Quebec City-Lévis road by 2020.
- Commit $26 billion on the Island Montreal’s east end to revitalize Boulevard Notre Dame, build a tramway, and build an “innovation zone”.
- Commit $12 million over 4 years in a local purchase plan.
- Commit to $150-$300 tax credit extra per child, according to family income.
- Commit $2 billion for education: free educational services for 4-year-olds enrolled in pre-kindergarten programs at schools and at government-run daycares (CPEs); and more intensive English lessons early on.
- Commit an additional $400 million for school renovations.
- Increase the starting salaries of teachers to $53,134 a year, starting in 2021-2022.
- Commit $9.5 million in educational funding for cultural field trips.
- Commit an additional $14 million a year to health care, providing two health insurance cards to every child, adding video consultations with doctors and 25 new super clinics.
- Reaffirm commitment to allow patients within the public system waiting for surgery to be operated by private surgeons, paid by the state.
- Ensure 90% of Quebecers have access to a family doctor by 2022.
- Provide free dental care to teenagers and seniors.
- Commit an additional $70 million for handicapped children.
- Commit to a maximum of $7 a day for hospital parking.
- Create 1500 new spaces in CHSLD between 2018 and 2022.
- Commit $153 million per year for tax credits for seniors.
- Commit $2400 in tax credits for families that need to adapt their homes to accommodate the elderly.
- Commit faster internet for all Quebecers by 2020.
- Commit to beginning construction on a 3rd Quebec City-Lévis road by 2026, claiming it is a more realistic timeframe.
- Meet with Indigenous communities much more often and much sooner than 100 days into the mandate.
- Protect the family farm by revising financial aid to ensure younger generations can continue in agriculture.
- Impose a purchase limit of 100 hectares of agricultural land per year.
- Commit to decentralization of the forestry, natural resources, and agricultural/fishing ministries to allow resource decisions to be made in the regions.
- Commit $10 million over 5 years to municipalities for better planification of economic immigration and to fill labour shortages.
- Raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2022.
- End subsidies to Air Canada customers.
- Provide free school supplies to elementary and secondary school students.
- Commit to having students in CEGEP take a French proficiency course before they graduate.
- Increase parental leave to give more time to parents, including adoptive parents.
- Increase the number of people working from home by 200, 000 by 2025 and offer a tax credit for those choosing to do so.
- Commit to covering the first cycle of in vitro fertilization.
- Commit $200 million for CHSLD renovations.
- Commit an additional $34 million to the current Quebec Cultural Plan starting in 2022. Plan to include re-visiting Kanata cancellation and capping book discounts to protect small bookstores.
- Create a government mobile app to encourage carpooling and reduce congestion.
- Commit $7.4 billion on ‘le grand déblocage’, which calls for extensions of nearly all existing commuter train lines to the outer reaches of the Montreal region.
- Target 5% of vehicle sales to be electric or hybrid by 2025, 50% by 2030 and 100% by 2035.
- Allow people to grow two marijuana plants at home.
- Commit to ensuring 50% of food in public cafeterias is local.
- Meet with the leaders of all First Nations in the first 100 days of the mandate.
- Reduce the cost of hunting and fishing licences and encourage the practice among youth.
- Increase regional power.
- Create a Consumer Protect Office that would keep a control on high gas prices.
- Raise minimum wage to $15 by 2019.
- Commit no tax increase on income under $97,000.
- Adopt a new tax system to raise taxes for the rich.
- End private school subsidies.
- Provide free education from daycare to PhD level.
- Commit $2 billion to rebuild the Quebec school system by reducing the number of students in a class, hiring more support staff and renovating public schools in the province.
- Provide free universal dental care, covering free care for children and up to 80% for adults, costing $950 a year.
- Renegotiate with medical specialists to reduce their pay by 12%.
- Create a public fibre-optic network to ensure fast internet connection for all regions of the province.
- Reduce public transit rates by 50% across the province.
- Commit $25 billion from now until 2030, to add 38 new metro stations, including the Pink Line and an extension of the Yellow Line on the south shore.
- Commit $2 billion on a public bus service connecting smaller cities to Montreal and buy the assets of the companies that run the routes.
- Commit $47 million in cultural programs for youth, which would include a digital platform developed by Télé Québec.
- Develop a national policy on locally crafted alcohol to support regional producers.
- Develop a national market for the wood industry.
- Meet with the leaders of all First Nations in the first 100 days of the mandate.
- Use the current Generations Fund to support green infrastructure.
- Ban the sale of gas-powered cars by 2030.
- Protect 10% of the marine environment by 2020.
- Commit $560 million over the next four years on a sovereignty project, including a “Constituent Assembly”, which would cost $140 million a year.