Quebec 2020

Written by  //  March 10, 2020  //  Québec  //  No comments

Quebec government tries to go green in new budget, pushing public transit and electric cars
But environmentalists question level of commitment, with bulk of money not allotted until 2nd mandate
(CBC) Flush with cash, the Quebec government will pour more money into health care and education this year, while trying to convince Quebecers it is serious about reducing greenhouse gases.
Valérie Plante, who has made fighting climate change key to her own mandate, said she was “pleased to witness an important shift” toward public transit. But she also said she was disappointed that the government did not commit to build any new social housing in the city as its vacancy rate hits a 15-year low.
Despite the focus on the environment, the biggest spending areas in the provincial budget remain health care and education.
Caregivers get a break
Much of the new health-care money is going toward improving primary care services. But it also includes a commitment to add 900 beds to long-term care facilities, and $450 million over five years to hire more staff in the province’s beleaguered youth protection system.

10 March
To anglos, CAQ government’s deeds speak louder than its words
Recent consultation process was positive to the extent that it opened a dialogue, but immediate tangible steps, not just words, are required.
Geoffrey Chambers & Gerald Cutting, Special to Montreal Gazette
For decades, chronic neglect of our community has sapped its vitality. This has robbed us of many of our young people. It now impairs our longer-term viability. The Quebec Community Groups Network reiterates that immediate tangible steps, not just words, are required.
We finally have virtual unanimity: access to training in French-language skills should be freely provided to any Quebecer. [Christopher Skeete, parliamentary assistant to Legault for Relations with English-speaking Quebecers] said he is receptive to the community’s request for enhanced access to French lessons for English-speaking Quebecers. Let’s do it.
Development of promised Access Programs across Quebec’s Health and Social Services network has for years been held back by bureaucratic inertia and inflexibility. These programs are essential for English-speaking Quebecers to exercise our legal right to receive full health and social services in our own language. The governing legislation must be broadened to encompass critical components now exempted — including ambulance transport, new family physician clinics known as GMFs, and other forms of care delivered outside the public network.

Our community remains woefully underrepresented in Quebec’s civil service.

7 March
Quebec Community Groups Network calls out government consultations – with video
(CTV) The secretariat has been holding consultations with English-speaking communities for the past six months, but the QCGN says the talks didn’t go far enough.
The QCGN described the talks as mostly a cosmetic exercise, and are particularly unhappy about the province’s religious symbols ban (Bill 21) and the bill abolishing school boards (Bill 40).
“The consultations did not address the fundamental issues that the community is worried about,” said QCGN’s Sylvia Martin LaForge. “While the community worries about underfunding and underrepresentation, the broader issues over the loss of our institutions, the loss of our representation, are fundamental and the consultations did not address that.”
CAQ parliamentary secretary for English-speaking Quebecers Christopher Skeete said the QCGN is mixing up two issues.
“There’s the reality of being an English-speaking Quebecer every day, and there’s whether or not, as a citizen, I agree with this position from the government or that position from the government,” said Skeete. “On any given day, we can analyze how people feel being an English-speaking Quebecer which was the mandate of the consultation versus whether or not some people in the English-speaking community agree with whether or not we should be removing school board elections. I think you have to really separate the individual file from the overall experience of being an English-speaking Quebecer.”
Not exactly the international exposure we need!
A Quebec Ban on Religious Symbols Upends Lives and Careers
(NYT) A Muslim lawyer who wears a head scarf has put aside her aspiration to become a public prosecutor.
A Sikh teacher with a turban moved about 2,800 miles from Quebec to Vancouver, calling herself a “refugee in her own country.”
And an Orthodox Jewish teacher who wears a head kerchief is worried that she could be blocked from a promotion.
Since the Quebec government in June banned schoolteachers,  police officers, prosecutors and other public sector employees from wearing religious symbols while at work, people like these three women have been grappling with the consequences. … the law has prompted vocal protests and legal challenges, as well as condemnation by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Critics say it flouts freedom of religion, breaches constitutional protections and excludes minorities who choose to wear symbols of faith from vital professions. They also say implementing the law will be fraught because it can be hard to discern a religious symbol from a fashion accessory or nonreligious garb.
The English Montreal School Board said the law was forcing it to turn away qualified teachers. It said at least one teacher had removed her head scarf while at work to keep her job.

28 February
Coalition eyes court action, says Bill 40 violates francophone rights
Citizens’ group claims “unequal treatment” in school-board reform vis-à-vis anglophones.
A citizens’ coalition has joined the growing chorus protesting against the Quebec government’s education reform, announcing Friday it’s launching a fundraising campaign to challenge Bill 40 in court.
The group told a news conference that the Coalition Avenir Québec’s move to force Bill 40 through the National Assembly — and immediately fire elected French-language school board commissioners — deprived commissioners of the right to defend themselves legally, and that it is up to citizens and taxpayers to take up the challenge.
“We lost rights that we consider fundamental: the right to elect the people who will administer our school administrations, and who will be held accountable to the whole population,” said Marc St-Pierre, a former teacher and school board administrator with 40 years experience.

20 February
Quebec’s immigration numbers drop while rest of Canada is on the rise
Included in the reductions were workers from specialized fields like nursing, computer engineering and computer programming — positions the province is struggling to fill in the midst of a labour shortage.
Quebec Premier François Legault fulfilled his promise to cut the number of immigrants to the province by 20 per cent in 2019, in stark contrast to the rest of Canada.
The analysis shows a significant drop in the number of immigrants with degrees in specialized professions that the province is struggling to fill. In 2018, Quebec admitted 2,120 registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses. In 2019, that figure dropped to 1,440, a decrease of 32 per cent.
Unionized nurses in Quebec have been fighting forced overtime and have organized strikes to protest being forced to work long hours, and are calling for more nurses in order to ease the pressure.
Similar reductions were seen in 2019 in the number of information systems analysts and consultants (36 per cent), computer engineers (not including software engineers and designers; 33 per cent), computer programmers and interactive media developers (45 per cent), electrical and electronics engineers (41 per cent), university professors and lecturers (17 per cent) and civil engineers (28 per cent).
English-speaking Community Challenges the Constitutionality of Bill 40
(QCGN) APPELE-Québec announced today that representatives of Quebec’s English-speaking community will be launching a court challenge to Bill 40; An Act to amend mainly the Education Act with regard to school organization and governance. The Alliance for the Promotion of Public English-language Education in Quebec (APPELE-Québec) brings together 16 groups representing parents, educators and the community.
Quebec government follows advice of populist columnist, boots philosopher from public forum
When the Quebec government decided earlier this year to reform the mandatory religious and ethics education course taught in the province’s schools, it invited Daniel Weinstock — a prominent philosopher at McGill University — to take part in public meetings on the issue.
But that invitation was promptly withdrawn Wednesday after the Journal de Montréal, the largest newspaper in Quebec by circulation, published a column that incorrectly accused Weinstock of advocating a form of circumcision for young girls.
Even though Weinstock’s opposition to such practices is well-documented — he reiterated his position in a Facebook post Wednesday — Quebec’s education minister said he was standing by his decision to withdraw the invitation.

17 February
Bombardier to shrink by half with announced sale of rail unit to France’s Alstom
(Globe & Mail) After decades of building one of the world’s largest aerospace and train businesses, Montreal’s Bombardier Inc. will shrink by half after formally announcing the sale of its rail division to France’s Alstom SA.
The wholesale retreat from building everything from high-speed trains in China to streetcars for Toronto means that Bombardier will exist only as a maker of private business jets. But Bombardier Transportation (BT), as the train division is known, isn’t giving up all of its Canadian roots: The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), which owns 32.5 per cent of BT, has agreed to become a significant shareholder in the enlarged Alstom.
Bombardier unloaded the last of its once-vast commercial aircraft business earlier this month, with an agreement to sell its remaining interest in the Airbus A220 passenger jet – the aerospace project once known as the C Series that nearly bankrupted the company – to Airbus.
Bombardier bets Learjets are the new Ski-Doos
Going forward, Bombardier will be a business jet maker with an industry-leading US$14.4-billion backlog of orders. The company will introduce new products, in the form of larger planes with greater range. Mr. Bellemare will expand a servicing business that kicks off dependable cash flow by keeping a fleet of more than 4,800 existing Bombardier jets in the air.
Alstom, on the other hand, will shoulder responsibility for fixing a trains business that has been plagued by cost overruns and missed deadlines in recent years. The headaches that come with dealing with a Bombardier factory in Thunder Bay that laid off 550 employees in November – half its work force – are now a Paris-based CEO’s problem.

8 February
Bill 40 passes 60-35 despite fury over last-minute amendments
Vote at 3:20 a.m. follows news school board commissioners to be fired three weeks sooner than originally announced.
(Montreal Gazette) Playing hardball to the bitter end, an unyielding Education Minister Jean-François Roberge infuriated MNAs Friday when he announced the government intends to fire hundreds of school board commissioners three weeks sooner than originally announced.
As the final legislature debate over Bill 40 abolishing Quebec’s 60 francophone and nine anglophone school boards dragged late into the night under the cloud of closure, Roberge tabled a surprise last-minute amendment to the bill moving up the date commissioners will be extinct.
Instead of the previously announced date of Feb. 29, Roberge’s amendment means commissioners are out the door as soon as the bill gets royal sanction, sometime Saturday morning.
The one exception to the measure will be commissioners in the English network who will continue to be allowed to work in their existing roles until Nov. 1 as planned, Roberge said in response to a question from Liberal MNA Jennifer Maccarone.
…the MNAs representing opposition parties for the final adoption stage were furious, lashing out at Roberge and accusing him of showing a lack of empathy for commissioners who have served on school boards for years.
… the incident capped a tumultuous day as the CAQ government acted on a threat issued last week and invoked closure — a parliamentary procedure that limits debate so a bill can be fast-tracked into law — on Bill 40.
With a blizzard roaring, MNAs were huddled inside the legislature for an examination — in a single day — of the 312-article bill that amends 80 pieces of legislation and shakes up both the francophone and anglophone education systems.
It not only replaces school boards with service centres, it also abolishes elections in the francophone system. Elections can still take place in the anglophone system.
Friday is the fourth time in eight months the CAQ government invoked closure. It used the procedure in June 2019 on Bill 9 reforming the immigration system and Bill 21 on state secularism. The third occasion was in December 2019 on Bill 34 on hydro rates.

22 January
Quebec’s proposed electoral reforms would give regions more power
Hearings begin for CAQ’s plan to introduce proportional representation at National Assembly
(CBC) Under the proposed reforms, the Outaouais, Mauricie and Centre-du-Québec regions would each get an additional seat in the National Assembly, while the island of Montreal would lose three, going from 27 to 24 seats.
There would still be 125 MNAs in the legislature. Of them, 80 would represent ridings, elected by majority vote. The remaining 40 MNAs would be chosen from regional lists. Voters would have to cast two ballots.
Hearings into the CAQ’s proposed legislation, Bill 39, began Wednesday in Quebec City.
Bill 39 also requires voters to approve the plan in a referendum likely to coincide with the next provincial election, set for 2022.

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