Four of the five party leaders represented in the National Assembly answered questions from young Quebecers on Friday night in Montreal. They discussed various issues ranging from climate change to housing, including immigration and relations with indigenous peoples, in an evening marked by the absence of Prime Minister François Legault.
Posted at 12:11 p.m
Frederik Xavier Duhamel The press
“We would have liked to have had the Prime Minister with us, but [il] declined the invitation,” said the director of Le Devoir, Brian Myles, who moderated the discussion organized by this newspaper and the Institut du Nouveau Monde (INM) at Concordia University.
Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) leader Dominique Anglade, Québec solidaire (QS) co-speaker Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, Parti Québécois (PQ) leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, and Conservative party leader Quebec Party (PCQ), Éric Duhaime took turns answering questions selected or submitted by Le Devoir and the INM. They largely reaffirmed the commitments of their parties without confronting each other directly during this “youth dialogue”.
It was Mr St-Pierre Plamondon who answered the first question, which concerned housing, by repeating the PQ’s pledge to build 5,000 new social housing units a year and introducing tax measures to discourage speculation. On parity, Mr St-Pierre Plamondon praised his party’s history of notably passing the Pay Equity Act and does not rule out passing legislation to force private sector boards to move closer to gender parity.
When asked about early school leaving, the head of the PQ recalled his call earlier this year for free access to sport, which Mr St-Pierre Plamondon said was “a unifying factor”. He also said he wanted to reduce the student-teacher ratio “as much as possible” and increase the presence of other professionals, such as psychologists. He concluded by emphasizing the importance of mental health and the potentially damaging role of social networks, without making any specific commitments.
To improve the healthcare system, Ms Anglade said she wants to put more frontline resources into making sure all Quebecers have a GP. She also stressed the importance of the “universality of mental health care”. When questioned about the “institutional negligence” of the Youth Protection Agency (DPJ), the Liberal leader pledged to accept all the recommendations of the Laurent Commission, set up after the 2019 murder of a 7-year-old girl in Granby.
What Quebec should do to “thwart oil projects that Canada might try to force on us,” Ms Anglade spoke about her ECO project, which specifically aims to achieve carbon neutrality and develop the green hydrogen sector for transporting goods. Finally, on academic freedom, she stressed the importance of being able to express one’s opinions in a respectful environment without making any particular suggestion.
Mr. Nadeau-Dubois first had to share his commitments to reconciliation with the indigenous people. He highlighted the presence of six Indigenous QS candidates in the upcoming elections, including Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash in Ungava, before arguing that the reconciliation program should be decided by Indigenous leaders, not Quebec’s head of government. The supporting co-speaker nonetheless pledged to adopt the “joyce principle” that François Legault’s government renounced last year and recognize a special status for indigenous languages.
Regarding the integration of newcomers, Mr. Nadeau-Dubois said he wants to focus on franking in the paid workplace, promoting Québec culture and immigration to the region, which he also wants to increase. To address the labor shortage, the MNA said for Gouin he wanted to improve working conditions in the public sector and called for the minimum wage to be raised to $18 an hour. Finally, Mr Nadeau-Dubois has pledged to raise the legal voting age from 18 to 16 to encourage young people to vote.
For his part, Mr Duhaime first had to answer a – randomly selected – question about his plan to combat misinformation. Blaming a “democratic deficit,” the PCQ leader noted that large numbers of Quebecers had opposed the health measures in place during the pandemic, without their voices finding an echo in the National Assembly. He also accused Prime Minister François Legault of splitting this plan. Regarding daycare access, Mr. Duhaime resumed his commitment to pay parents $200 per week per child to choose an appropriate service.
When asked about the actions that need to be taken in the face of climate change, the Conservative leader said he wants to boost electrification of transport, which accounts for more than 43% of the province’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. He said that this project could be funded from Quebec resources, and later specified he was alluding to shale gas and other hydrocarbons, the exploitation of which is now banned here. Likewise, Mr Duhaime said he was against the idea of closing Horne Foundry but judged the current situation as unacceptable for people’s health.