The year of the landings

When you lack imagination, it’s an easy reflex. At the first drop in the polls, we say to ourselves: why not a little reshuffle to revive our government?

But that won’t happen at the start of the year at the CAQ. For François Legault, this would be a very bad idea.

The Caquists’ most recent setbacks result from decisions improvised in an apparent panic. A good example: the relaunch of the third link the day after the defeat during the by-election in Jean-Talon. A reshuffle would look like an admission of failure and a new maneuver to climb back up in the polls.

The government is entering the second year of its mandate. With the economic downturn, it will be difficult no matter what he does.

It is better to avoid actions that, in order to quickly move the needle, move away from the long-term objective: improving the lives of students and patients and those who work with them.

For voters’ mood to change, the impact of reforms will have to start being felt from 2025, at least a little bit. At the very least, people will have to believe that the CAQ’s projects serve a purpose.

Most ministers’ menus are already overflowing. The year 2024 will be the year of delivery. And for this, stability is crucial. The government does not want to put this work on hold while waiting for a new minister to tame its files.

In any case, rearrangements rarely have the effect they are believed to have. The impact on the polls is moderate, as demonstrated by that of Justin Trudeau last summer – name three recruits promoted to the federal cabinet from memory…

These games of musical chairs serve rather to get rid of dunces, to recruit stars – they are rare – and to replace departing veterans at the end of their mandate with new faces.

For a prime minister, this type of exercise is perilous. Backbenchers usually have this in common: the belief that they would be better than the minister battered by the most recent controversy. A reshuffle awakens these ambitions and inevitably disappoints them. This complicates the management of the caucus. Especially when the team, like that of Mr. Legault, has 88 elected officials.

A reshuffle serves to revive a government, but it is rather looking for landing strips.

Christian Dubé must set up Santé Québec and choose its leaders. The gradual end to the use of private placement agencies continues, as does the decompartmentalization of professions and the establishment of nurse practitioner clinics. There is also the expected action plan so that people registered with the First Line Access Center can see a doctor within a reasonable time frame. Without forgetting the hope that the digitization of records will lead to the creation of the “Your Health” online platform. And that’s just a preview.

Bernard Drainville reassured many Caquistes with his back-to-school plan, praised by the community. If the unions accept the agreement in principle, it will have to find the promised class aid, respond to the demand for reception classes caused by record temporary immigration, set up the National Institute of Excellence and recruit new teachers. Faculties of education deplore the shortage while opposing Mr. Drainville’s acceleration of qualifying training to recruit more graduates in other disciplines.


The Minister of Education, Bernard Drainville

In public transport, Minister Geneviève Guilbault is tired of announcing postponements and cost overruns. His bill to create an agency is expected before the summer. Expectations are high for the Quebec tramway, put on ice, and the one that could be proposed in eastern Montreal.

In Finance, despite his disastrous initiative to use public funds for the Kings’ millionaires, Eric Girard appears irremovable.

His budget will be even more complicated than expected. In November, he cut his economic growth forecast in half, in addition to dipping into his contingency reserve. The agreement in principle with the unions will lead to a long-term recurring increase in spending of several billion. This is the price to pay for quality public services.

At the Treasury, Sonia LeBel is appreciated by her colleagues. After the negotiations, his diplomacy will once again be put to the test. Rising health and education costs, combined with economic gloom, will lead to difficult choices, and that is Mme LeBel who will have to say no to certain ministries.


The President of the Treasury Board, Sonia LeBel

At Energy, Pierre Fitzgibbon will not move. In an expected bill, he will have to find the price scale which will protect the dividend returned to the State without weakening SMEs or encouraging waste, and which will impose a fair contribution on industrial consumers. He will also want to complete the battery sector by implementing the recycling aspect with a local company. It’s good for ecology and for economic nationalism. The current context will, however, make the financing of these projects more complex.


The Minister of Economy, Innovation and Energy, Pierre Fitzgibbon

Added to this, of course, is the colossal challenge of building what is equivalent to half of Hydro-Québec’s current production. However, there is a shortage of construction workers. This will also complicate several other fundamental missions of the State – this will be the subject of my next column.

This is why at the start of the year, the CAQ government is seeking stability. The watchword internally: consistency and cohesion. As in: stop criticizing your colleagues and putting the spotlight on yourself out of personal ambition or incompetence.

Every government has a cabinet reshuffle. There will be one eventually, but not until summer. When then ? It will depend on the quality of the work over the next few months.


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