François Legault’s government hasn’t stopped looking for scapegoats to explain failings within the government and its policies since the beginning of its mandate.
Premier Legault uses all forums to proclaim that his Bill 61 is a response to the difficulties businesses are experiencing. That’s far from being the case. This bill is nothing but a botched infrastructure plan by a government seeking to completely override all of our environmental regulations.
Worse yet, this bill proposes disconcerting changes to the planning process and regulations for awarding contracts for building infrastructures, changes that were torpedoed by the Protectrice du Citoyen and the Vérificatrice Générale du Québec, even informing the Charbonneau Commission’s public monitoring committee that the cost of projects could climb 20% to 35%. On a total of 31 billion dollars, that’s really something to think about!
When the official opposition extended an olive branch to the government to adopt the sections that could be useful, the government balked at the idea, preferring to seize opportunities presented by public appearances over the summer to blame opposition parties, without actually doing anything to help Quebec’s small and medium-sized businesses.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the confinement that ensued hit Quebec’s economy head on. In its June 19th portrait of public finances, the government confirmed that at its peak 40% of Quebec’s economy had closed causing the loss of 825,000 jobs.
As Quebec’s economy slowly deconfines, the ravages of the worst recession in our history are being revealed to us in the form of numerous businesses that are closing within our cities and regions, leaving thousands of Quebecers jobless. Faced with these closures, we can’t help but acknowledge the absence of a concrete and effective recovery plan from the government.
For many weeks now, the Quebec Liberal Party has been calling for the government to create a direct assistance program for small and medium-sized businesses as is being done in Germany, France as well as in other Canadian provinces like British Columbia and Ontario. Quebec entrepreneurs are carrying Quebec’s economy on their shoulders, dipping into their family savings to keep their businesses afloat and to keep Quebecers employed. It is a reality that is far too often ignored by the CAQ government, which has offered them nothing but over-indebtedness and bankruptcy.
Running low on solutions, the CAQ government also blames the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) for its disincentive effect on returning to work. While the criticisms are not unfounded, the government stubbornly assigns blame to others, in this case the federal government, rather than taking action through strong pan-Canadian leadership to effect change or by creating its own program to correct the negative effects the benefit has on the economy, as Manitoba has done.
The findings are clear, after more than 4 months since the onset of the pandemic, the government is still incapable of formulating a recovery plan that is worthy of the name, one that will set the foundation for economic recovery that is focused on the future and relies on the green economy, innovative manufacturing, robotization and support for our SMEs.
Quebec’s SMEs are in need of direct assistance, money to help them through the economic crisis and ensure their long-term viability. The jobs of hundreds of thousands of Quebecers depend on it.
Mr. Legault, it’s time to stop blaming everyone and start taking action!
Official Opposition Critic for Infrastructures
Carlos J. Leitão
Official Opposition Critic for Economy and Climate Change
Official Opposition Critic for SMEs and Innovation
Official Opposition Critic for Public Finances