As the provincial election campaign draws to a close, the NATIONAL team continues its analysis of this first five-party battle. While the party that will form the next government is unlikely to be a surprise, the Official Opposition is still up for grabs. An overview of the major commitments shows little difference between the platforms. Where the parties differ is on the path to get there. It is clear that there is not just one ballot box question. On October 3, Quebecers will choose the next government according to their priorities.
Environment: A struggle between different energies
As storm Fiona hit the Magdalen Islands hard, the fight against climate change is one of the central concerns of this campaign, especially among young people.
Québec solidaire (QS) and the Parti québécois (PQ) are the only parties in the fight to propose detailed plans that have been validated by independent experts. François Legault's Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ), which has been in government for four years, wants to pursue its Plan for a Green Economy, focusing on hydroelectricity and the electrification of transport to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs). Despite this, it is the third link road infrastructure project that has attracted attention, much to the chagrin of the CAQ. The Quebec Liberal Party (QLP) is betting instead on green hydrogen to combine the fight against climate change with economic development. However, this new type of energy will require a significant amount of hydroelectricity, which remains to be determined if the QLP forms the government. The Parti conservateur du Québec (PCQ) is the only one not to give any target for the reduction of GHGs and wants to revive the exploitation of hydrocarbons.
Economy: Inflation priority and labour shortage
If there is one issue that has particularly affected the Quebec population over the past year, it is the cost of living.
To address this, François Legault's CAQ has introduced its "Anti-Inflation Shield", promising to send another cheque to Quebecers by the end of 2022, while Paul St-Pierre Plamondon's PQ is proposing a similar "purchasing power" allowance. The Quebec Liberal Party, the Coalition avenir Québec, and the Parti conservateur du Québec are committed to lowering taxes, while Québec solidaire and the Parti québécois are not. Instead, the Solidaires want a tax on large fortunes and a tax on large estates. However, the CAQ does not plan to reduce the Quebec sales tax (QST), unlike the PLQ, QS, and PCQ, which are moving from reducing to eliminating the tax on certain goods and services.
The labour shortage has been on everyone's lips since the beginning of the pandemic, and this election is no exception. Among the solutions, the Solidaires and Liberals believe that the immigration thresholds should be increased to between 70,000 and 80,000 immigrants per year. The PCQ, the CAQ, and the PQ refuse to raise the thresholds, the Conservatives and the Caquistes advocate maintaining the threshold at 50,000 immigrants and the Péquistes want to lower it to 35,000 people per year. All parties have otherwise made proposals to improve productivity, retain or bring back older workers, and encourage the integration of various groups into the labour market.
On business, although there are few commitments, all five parties agree on cutting red tape and over-regulation. Among the key measures, however, the Conservatives pledge to phase out business subsidies, while the Liberals promise direct assistance through reducing the tax and administrative burden.
Health: The major theme in all elections
While the healthcare system is once again one of the main themes of the election campaign, the various parties are multiplying their commitments to increase staff, relieve overcrowding in emergency rooms, and provide better front-line access.
The slogan of the CAQ campaign announces it from the outset: François Legault's party wishes to continue the major projects begun in the last mandate. This is particularly true in the area of health, where the minister, Christian Dubé, wants to make the administrative machinery more agile, notably by creating a new governance structure. The CAQ is banking on front-line access counters to offer consultations to orphaned patients and to reduce the waiting time in emergency rooms. To fix the health system, the PLQ is banking on the transformation of family medicine groups and promises a family doctor for every Quebecer. The PQ and QS have similar approaches in many respects, particularly in the area of healthcare, where both parties propose a shift towards home care and greater involvement of the CLSC network.
For its part, the PCQ suggests referring patients to a private institution for their surgery after a waiting time deemed "unreasonable." The party sees the patient as a source of revenue and is exploring the concept of magnet hospitals, which would reward hospitals that limit their spending. It also wants to give Quebecers the choice to buy additional private insurance. On the issue of privatization in healthcare, the Liberals and the Caquists also want a greater contribution, while the Solidaires and the Péquistes promise to reduce the number of private clinics.
Other key commitments
Throughout the campaign, the parties made many commitments. Although we can't list them all, here is a list of the main promises.
Coalition avenir Québec
- Build new hydroelectric dams and wind farms to support the electrification of transportation
- Investing $50 million in sustainable agriculture to accelerate the adoption of environmentally responsible farming practices
- Enhancing financial assistance for seniors aged 70 and over
- Capping certain rates such as electricity, daycare fees, tuition, vehicle registration, and driver's licences at 3% or less
- Renovate 600 schools with an additional investment of $2 billion
- Investing to increase Quebec's food autonomy
- Establish a centre for electric batteries to stimulate the industry and innovation
Quebec Liberal Party
- Increase water charges to industries that use it by up to six times
- Introduce free public transportation for students and those 65 and over
- Giving students the opportunity to choose their college institution in the language of their choice
- Make parental leave available for an additional six months for parents who cannot find a childcare place
- Eliminate the welcome tax for first-time homebuyers
- Introducing a new higher tax bracket for those earning over $300,000
- Eliminate the six-month requirement for newcomers to communicate with the government in French
- Organize a "COP-Quebec" to discuss the environment
- Establish public coverage for mental health services and hire 900 psychologists
- Implement universal dental insurance
- Reduce the cost of public transportation by 50%
- Adopt a law against food waste, prohibiting large food and restaurant companies from throwing away unsold food
- Develop a public transportation plan to reduce GHGs
- Introduce a 15% average tax on polluting vehicles from 2023 to 2030 to fund subsidies for electric cars
- Impose pay for all internships
- Increase the minimum wage to $18 per hour
- Hold a referendum on sovereignty in a first mandate
- Introduce the PasseClimat: an annual transit pass giving unlimited access to all public transit systems in Quebec for $365
- Advance the ban on the sale of gasoline-powered vehicles to 2030 and establish the obligation to offer a market composed of 50% electric vehicles by 2025
- Implement universal coverage for psychotherapy
- Provide effective free university tuition for those whose parents earn below the median wage
- Supporting the construction of social housing with 860 million per year over four years
- Impose a tax on the Web giants equivalent to 3% of their sales in Quebec
Parti conservateur du Québec
- Reduce the size of the State
- Demand the abolition of the federal carbon tax, but maintain the carbon market
- Revive the project to create a natural gas liquefaction plant in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean
- Modify the loans and grants program so that students who work during their studies are no longer penalized
- End the SAQ monopoly
- Repeal the reform of the Charter of the French Language (Bill 96)
- Develop a bill on the francization of immigrants
- Organize a summit on youth mental health within the first 100 days
——— Elizabeth Lemay is a former Consultant at NATIONAL Public Relations