On Tuesday, Quebec Prime Minister François Legault made decentralization of the province’s health system a key priority by setting priorities for the final year of his government’s term.
Legault presented his vision for post-pandemic recovery in a broad inaugural address to the legislature that came after he announced the extension of the legislature on October 7.
Legault said in his speech, the equivalent of a speech to the throne in other provinces, that it is time for Quebecers to look ahead after the battle with COVID-19. “Now that the worst of the pandemic has passed, it is time for Quebec to project into the future,” he said.
In his hour-long speech, Legault listed promises ranging from creating tens of thousands of daycare centers to creating a government cybersecurity department and ruling out future fossil oil extraction projects in the province.
It began with the promise to undertake a “grand decentralization” of the Quebec health system by transferring power to regions and subregions.
“The people who are best placed to choose the best ways to meet our objectives are those on the ground, those who are close to the action,” he said.
Legault admitted that the current system was “dysfunctional,” in which 40 percent of workers work part-time and the rest are forced to do mandatory overtime, leading to resignations and burnout.
His plans include creating incentives to attract workers to the public system, reducing the province’s dependence on private health agencies, and ensuring that all Quebecers have access to a family doctor, implying that the government is ready to intervene. to ensure that doctors see more patients.
He also announced that the government would end the pandemic state of emergency once children ages five to 11 are vaccinated against COVID-19, which it expects to happen in early 2022.
Legault promised to create 37,000 more daycare places, without saying how he would do it, and outlined plans to make Quebec a global hub for electric transportation and green hydrogen.
On the subject of the economy, he promised to address Quebec’s labor shortage by adding 100,000 workers in sectors such as construction, information technology and engineering. He said there will also be incentives to keep older workers in the workplace.
Legault is committed to decentralizing healthcare while setting priorities for the coming year. #Polqc #Quebec
Legault, however, appeared to rule out a large increase in immigration, noting that Quebec is already one of the places in the world that accepts the most newcomers. He said that while economic immigration is part of the solution to the labor shortage, the system must also respect Quebec’s ability to integrate immigrants into “the realities of a French nation in North America.”
“Quebec cannot have the same immigration model as the rest of Canada,” he said. “The survival of the French requires a different approach.”
At various points in the speech, Legault highlighted the need for “national cohesion,” which he said was key to the province’s fight against the pandemic.
“This long battle showed us how critical our national cohesion is,” he said. “When Quebecers come together, they are capable of great things.”
To that end, it promised to create a course on Quebec culture and citizenship to be taught in schools, as well as more public spaces dedicated to Quebec culture and history.
Addressing reporters after the speech, Liberal leader Dominique Anglade said the speech contained little news and only touched lightly on some of the most important issues for Quebecers, such as climate change and the cost of living.
“It took 53 minutes for Mr. Legault to speak once about climate change and the environment,” he said. Fifty-three minutes. That tells you what priority you give to this topic. “
The extension ended work on all bills before the legislature, but the government can take back the legislation it deems essential and pick it up where it left off. The last time a Quebec prime minister extended the legislature was in 2011.
Legault’s Avenir Québec Coalition government was elected in 2018 and, according to provincial law, the next elections are scheduled for October 3, 2022.
This Canadian Press report was first published on October 19, 2021.
– By Morgan Lowrie in Montreal