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When You Need to Know About Moving Your Issues Forward in Quebec

Canadian and international companies and organisations that want to enter the Quebec market often feel they lack an understanding of Quebec’s distinct language, business, legal and regulatory environment.

What you need to know about Quebec

While Quebec benefits from numerous Canadian free trade agreements, notably with the North American, European and Asian markets, Quebec also offers a unique asset within North America: its linguistic and cultural diversity. In Montreal alone, approximately 60% of the population is bilingual and 20% is trilingual; across Quebec approximately 45% of the population were able to speak both French and English. Some 150 additional languages are also spoken in Québec, including Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Greek, Chinese, German and Portuguese. The workforce is highly skilled and trained, while Montreal produces the largest number of new university graduates in Canada: over 50,000 every year.

Economy

  • The economy in Quebec is fairly stable and strong, with unemployment at pre-Covid levels, which are the lowest levels seen in the past 40+ years. GDP growth of 2.7% is expected in 2022 and 2.0% in 2023, after 6.3% in 2021. The anticipated deficit is $6.5 billion for 2022-2023, a $2 billion improvement over last year, with a structural deficit now at $2.8 billion. A return to balanced budget is forecasted for 2027-2028.
  • The most pressing issue is the labour shortage, as Quebec has the second-highest number of job vacancies in Canada. It will be interesting to see to what extent this issue is discussed during the upcoming election campaign, but whichever party wins the election, the next government will have to continue prioritising finding solutions.

End of session

  • With the session having ended last week, the government is heading into a pre-electoral mode, with a short summer break followed by a ramping up of campaign season through October.
  • The Premier has made it clear that the Government will not be making any new policy or funding announcements once we hit July, and Ministers and political staff will likely only deal with urgent matters until after October.
  • The Legault government has passed around twenty bills this session, including on the French language, youth protection, increased spaces in public daycares, the end of investments and exploration of fossil fuels and on the public health emergency.
  • The government created two new ministries, the Ministry of the French Language and the Ministry of Cybersecurity and Digital Technology

Language laws:

  • Bill 96, an Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec is a reform of the Charter of the French Language, also commonly known as Bill 101.
  • It seeks to re-emphasize the formal recognition of French as the only official language of Québec and promote the presence of the French language in Québec, including in the fields of education, public administration, and business.
  • The bill contains more than 200 articles that touch on the use of French in the workplace, and applies the provisions of the French language charter to small businesses (between 25 to 49 people). It will require a must stricter use of French in contracts and other documents, require French whenever interacting with the provincial government, including obtaining permits, authorizations, subsidies or financial assistance.

Elections

  • Quebec elections are set for October 3rd this year.
  • Polling averages by Qc125 currently show the governing Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) leading handily at 43%, followed far behind by the Official Opposition Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) at 18%, far-left Québec Solidaire (QS) at 14%, the upstart far right Quebec Conservative Party (PCQ) at 14% and the former ruling party Parti Québécois (PQ) hovering around 9%.
  • This would translate into a landslide election victory for the CAQ, winning as many as 100/125 seats in Quebec’s National Assembly. The Quebec Liberals Party would most likely be reduced to 15-20 seats, mostly on the island of Montreal, with QS remaining in single digits and the Conservatives unlikely to make much of a dent.
  • This would go a long way to completing the realignment of Quebec politics, with the Liberals and PQ, the two parties that have governed Quebec for the past 50 years, reduced to marginal parties, and in the case of the PQ, potentially reducing them to 1 seat. Already, half or more of the members of the two caucuses are not seeking re-election.
  • The CAQ will be running on its record, successfully managing the pandemic, good fiscal management (including through the pandemic), and the protection of Quebec culture, identity and language.
  • The rising cost of living and inflation will definitely play a part in the campaign, and the uncertainty surrounding voters’ most basic pocketbook concerns is likely to be the most volatile issue throughout the campaign.

Looking ahead

  • After having passed two core social identity and cultural hot button laws, Bill 21 and Bill 96, issues that stir the passions of Quebecers, a new and strengthened CAQ will likely head into its next four years with a strong mandate to build on its economic success, likely aiming to reduce taxes and encourage growth and investment. Other priorities will also include reforming and modernizing the health care and education systems and dealing with seniors care.
  • Powers over Immigration will likely become a major point of contention between Quebec City and Ottawa; while Quebec has control over economic immigration, Ottawa still controls the admission of the refugee and family reunification categories and Premier Legault has indicated that he will continue to demand that all immigration powers be transferred to Quebec.

For more information about McMillan Vantage’s Quebec team, please contact Jonathan Kalles, Senior Consultant. 



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