Quebec 2020

Written by  //  September 24, 2020  //  Québec  //  No comments

Quebec’s long-term care homes are about to be put to another test, and the cracks are already showing
Evidence is beginning to mount that CHSLDs and seniors’ residences could see a repeat of the spring
Benjamin Shingler, Sean Gordon
The movement of staff between hot zones, filled with COVID-19 infections, and cold zones was one reason CHSLDs were so devastated by the coronavirus.
Four days ago the CHSLD in Maria, on the Gaspé peninsula, declared a COVID-19 outbreak. On Thursday, regional health authorities issued a cry for help, imploring locals to apply for work cleaning, cooking and caring for patients at the centre.
The appeal, designed to ease the pressure on exhausted staff, came the same day the provincial ombudsman issued a report excoriating the Quebec government for ignoring repeated warnings about the fraying elder care system.
And it landed only hours after the release of a pair of investigations into mass infections at two other CHSLDs that found alarming administrative and other shortcomings.
Four private seniors’ residences — two in Quebec City and two in neighbouring Chaudière-Appalaches — are considered by the province to be at the ‘critical’ stage, meaning more than 25 per cent of their residents have COVID-19. Another 35 are ‘under surveillance’ because they have reported multiple active cases.
In her annual report, Quebec Ombudsman Marie Rinfret said the failings of the province’s network of long-term care homes should have been corrected long ago.
The government has also recruited nearly 10,000 new patient attendants, about 7,000 of whom are already working in the system. The rest are still in training courses.

11 September
Chantal Hébert:Erin O’Toole is looking for support in Quebec. Here’s why the Liberals hope he finds it
Voters will get a glimpse at how incoming federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole fares on a tightrope when he holds his introductory meeting with Quebec premier François Legault on Monday.
In Quebec as opposed to Ontario and Atlantic Canada the Conservative battle is not mainly a duel with Trudeau’s Liberals but rather a bare-knuckle fight with the Bloc Québécois.
Both opposition parties court the same francophone voters, almost always in the process splitting the opposition vote to the benefit of the Liberals.
That’s why so far polls that show an uptick in Conservative fortunes in Quebec since O’Toole’s leadership victory inspire more relief than concern in the province’s Liberal circles

26 August
Quebec forges ahead with controversial school reopening plan despite parent anxieties
(Globe & Mail) Although Quebec was Canada’s COVID-19 epicentre, with more cases and deaths than any other province, it is moving more aggressively than anywhere in the country to get primary and secondary education back to normal.
With many of Montreal’s French-language public schools reopening on Thursday, parents, students, teachers and administrators are grappling with the risks and trade-offs of Quebec’s insistence on in-person learning.
Premier François Legault’s government has staked its bold policy on a belief that physical schooling is more effective and can be done safely, based in part on a partial reopening this spring when the province only saw a few dozen cases of infections in schools.
Critics say this approach is too callous about the health risks of COVID-19 and tramples on the rights of parents. Prominent Montreal lawyer Julius Grey filed a legal challenge last week on behalf of parents who want the option of enrolling their kids in online learning courses without a doctor’s note.

15 June
Quebec to allow indoor gatherings of 50 people, children to be closer together
Larger gatherings allowed and cinemas can reopen on June 22
Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province’s public health director, made the announcement Monday, explaining that this new regulation will allow movie theatres and performance spaces to reopen, with special measures in place.
In places with seating, and specifically where no one is talking, people will be expected to stay 1.5 metres away from one another, Arruda said. That includes university classrooms and movie theatres.
In larger gathering areas where there is a lot of circulation, including in restaurants, Quebecers will still be expected to keep two metres apart.

12 June
Opposition parties unite to delay adoption of Quebec’s economic stimulus package until fall
Parliamentary session adjourned Friday with Bill 61 still on backburner
The National Assembly adjourned Friday afternoon until Sept. 15, with a united opposition still refusing to pass Bill 61 — the stimulus package that would have fast-tracked more than 200 construction and infrastructure projects.
Opposition parties took particular issue with measures in the bill that would allow the government to bypass some of the normal rules for major infrastructure projects. Among other things, the bill had provisions for accelerated environmental reviews, the awarding of contracts without tender and the fast-tracking of government expropriation of property.

7 June
At huge anti-racism demonstrations in Quebec, premier called out for downplaying problem
In Montreal, Sherbrooke and Quebec City, demonstrations took place demanding action on systemic racism
The rebuke to Premier François Legault’s claims that there is no systemic racism in Quebec came in the form of a massive demonstration in Montreal on Sunday, where thousands of black people joined with other minorities to demand an immediate end to police harassment and other forms of discrimination.
Sizeable protests were held Sunday in other cities across the province as well, with crowds gathering outside the National Assembly in Quebec City, and in Sherbrooke. Organizers of an anti-racism demonstration in Rimouski, Que., said they attracted 1,000 people.
As anti-racism demonstrations have swept across the United States, Legault was asked repeatedly last week whether he believed systemic racism was also a problem in Quebec.
He replied that while a small number of Quebecers were racist, there was “no system in place that discriminates.”
Several provincial Liberal MNAs joined party leader Dominique Anglade at the protest. Anglade is the first black person to lead a major political party in the province.

19 May
New Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade looks to post-COVID Quebec
Philip Authier
(Montreal Gazette) At 46, she is the first female leader in the 150-year history of the Liberals — Quebec’s oldest party — and its first leader from a visible minority.
On Wednesday, during a one-day sitting of the legislature, Anglade for the first time assumed the big chair of the official opposition leader directly across the floor from Premier François Legault.
She got right down to business, deftly congratulating the government for its initial response to the COVID-19 emergency but criticizing its more recent performance and the crisis in the CHSLDs.

12 May
Opinion: It’s too soon to reopen schools, especially in Montreal
By Eight chairs of English school boards
Quebec’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic began well under the strong guidance of Premier François Legault who, assisted by health authorities and ministers, carefully accompanied Quebec citizens along a path of unprecedented anxiety regarding their health and the resulting measures to control the outbreak. The return to a “new normal” is proving to be infinitely more complex and has serious implications for education and the economy.
We are deeply troubled by the shifting criteria for the safe return of elementary students and the completion of studies for secondary students. Of particular concern is the level of COVID-19 cases in Montreal and possible serious illnesses in children. This is exacerbated by the sudden announcements last week of the change to the vulnerability age for staff from 60 to 70, followed by a directive that all high school students must complete their academic requirements online by the end of June. These announcements have raised public expectations to unreasonable levels.
… In a more conciliatory fashion, our demand is for a delay of school openings, especially in Montreal, until risk management is openly discussed and managed collaboratively with our school board administrators. If such co-ordination is the case for the public-health boards, then why not for public education? The minister of education has had six weeks to consult and collaboratively develop a workable plan. This was not done and has spawned a series of hastily issued centralized decisions without consultation, creating confusion within the system. In turn, this has served to further increase anxiety for parents, staff and students, eroding public confidence in the government.

4 May
English schools want flexibility about when to reopen, but Quebec government says no
‘The minister of education is not the boss of the council of commissioners,’ QESBA says
(CBC) Premier Francois Legault’s government says English school boards in the province do not have the power to delay opening their elementary schools, despite concerns that resources won’t be in place to ensure the safe return of students amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government’s position sets up a potential clash with the Quebec English School Boards Association, which maintains individual school boards can decide how many schools will open on the two dates set by Minister Jean-François Roberge for the resumption of classes — May 11 for schools in Quebec’s regions and May 19 for schools in the greater Montreal area.
The association says it can’t guarantee that transportation or teaching staff will be organized by those dates, nor is it clear enough parents will be willing to send their students back into the classroom, said Noel Burke, the association vice-president.
English schools boards, however, are not alone in seeking more flexibility from the Education Ministry.
A province-wide group of school administrators — the Fédération Québécoise des Directions d’établissement d’enseignement — also said it had asked Roberge to allow elementary schools some leeway when determining if they’re ready to open.
Pressure mounting for Legault to delay return to school (1 May)

28 April
Quebec’s move to reopen schools sows confusion, fear among parents
Elementary schools will open again next month, but not everyone plans to send their kids
For weeks, parents in Quebec have been told to keep their kids close to home, off the playground and away from their friends.
Now, they find themselves adjusting to the idea of sending their children back to school in May.
The province’s decision to open elementary schools and daycares next month has left parents filled with questions, and divided on whether to send their kids back.
Starting May 11, parents living outside of the greater Montreal area will be able to send their children back to elementary school and daycare. Elementary schools and daycares in the Montreal area are set to open the following week.

13 April
Quebec wants to ready businesses for ‘new world’ of protectionism that will follow pandemic
(CBC) The current plan is to gradually begin reopening the economy early next month.
But as the provincial government gets ready to make good on its promise to business owners, it is realizing they will be confronting a radically different global marketplace.
[Quebec’s economy minister, Pierre] Fitzgibbon, is expecting that not only will consumer behaviour change, so, too, will the behaviour of governments around the world. “There is going to be a geopolitical environment of increased protectionism,” he said.
In that context, Quebec needs to rethink how it secures stable access to the goods and services needed to keep its economy, and society, running smoothly, he said.
“Because depending on international markets will be less desirable, it will be very important for us to target what we want to protect in terms of supply chains.”

10 March
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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