Tom Mulcair: Legault’s big speech clashes with reality

Tom Mulcair: Legault’s big speech clashes with reality

On issues like minority rights, education and the pandemic, the CAQ government’s record is troubling.

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In his second “inaugural address” to the National Assembly on Tuesday, Premier François Legault talked a lot about the future. Problem is, most of his political action suggests he lives in the past.

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He’s still fighting “les anglais” as if we were in 1971 and Bill 101, the francization of immigrants and the primacy of French didn’t exist. He’s still preaching about economic autarchy for Quebec as if we were in 1981, and globalization of trade had never taken place. And he’s still lamenting the poor quality of our health care system as if he wasn’t a former health minister and current premier who did nothing to fix it then or now.

Legault wants to end the practice of using private agencies to hire nurses. But that’s something he was fine with while he was health minister and for the last three years as premier.

On the health front, Quebec has had the worst performance in Canada during the pandemic. Our deaths per 100,000 population are the highest in the country, 50 per cent higher than our sister province Ontario. Higher than much-maligned Alberta. That has nothing to do with temp agencies and nurses.

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Legault is still stubbornly refusing to institute a public commission of inquiry into Quebec’s pandemic disaster, and the divided opposition in Quebec City is so ineffective, they can’t even force the issue.

Our economy has been weakened by the anti-immigration policies brought in by Legault stalwart Simon Jolin-Barrette, who promised to throw tens of thousands of legitimate immigration applications into the garbage can. From Montreal to the Beauce, chambers of commerce and employers complain that the labour shortage is hampering business. Legault still suffers under the delusion that his policies have been good for the Quebec economy.

Quebec’s school system is in shambles as increasingly large numbers of parents are voting with their feet and enrolling their kids in the private school system. Of course, that system isn’t really private as it is heavily subsidized by taxpayers, even those taxpayers who cannot afford to take their kids out of the crumbling public system.

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Legault’s biggest move in the field of education was to scrap elected French school boards, as if rearranging bureaucrats somehow produces a better result for students. It doesn’t, and Education Minister Jean-François Roberge inexplicably maintains the confidence of Legault despite messing up everything from school ventilation to rapid testing for COVID-19.

One of the brightest lights in the cabinet, Health Minister Christian Dubé, had to pull back from a very reasonable plan to keep unvaccinated health care workers out of the system because he was sincerely afraid that it could collapse entirely.

Meanwhile, Quebec has become a rights-free zone under Legault’s tutelage. He uses the notwithstanding clause at the drop of a hat so that freedoms can’t be invoked to counter even his most egregious schemes. He openly states that he prefers to protect “collective rights” over individual rights.

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With Bills 21 and 96, we are becoming a human rights backwater in North America. Quite a calling card to give a person thinking of setting up shop here. Sorry, but if your religious practices include outward signs like a kippah, a turban or a headscarf, we can officially discriminate against you for certain job categories. We have a new language law that will seek to stymie your constitutional right to use English in the courts. We don’t have an available workforce you can draw on, but we do have squadrons of language police who can seize your computer and cellphone. Welcome!

Quebec’s civil service hiring practices produce a result that is demonstrably discriminatory. No one here wants to use the words “systemic discrimination” but it’s the only term, other than systemic racism, that can be used to describe a system that hires 50 per cent fewer visible minorities than their representation in the general population.

The future under this government doesn’t look anywhere near as bright as Legault tried to make it look on Tuesday.

Tom Mulcair, a former leader of the federal NDP, served as minister of the environment in the Quebec Liberal government of Jean Charest. 

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