Quebec, the second largest province in the country after Nunavut, is divided into 17 administrative regions.
In spite of a common historical past, each of Quebec’s regions has local particularities. Over the past fifty years, these regions have been affected by different economic, social and cultural changes. These changes have led to major differences in terms of development, not only between the regions themselves, but also between the regions and the large cities. The government is very concerned about this situation and wishes, more than ever, to create the conditions for balanced and coherent land use plans.
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Our cities and regions: Drivers of Quebec’s economic and social development
The Quebec Liberal Party is convinced that to modernize our province, we must start by strengthening regionalization. Until recently, the Quebec government has been exposed to relatively strong centralizing forces, but it is now looking for greater efficiency in defining and applying public policy. Because the State cannot be everywhere and do everything, the government is engaging in a new process of power transfer, or decentralization, from the centre to the regions, because our regions play a major role in economic growth and social justice.
We believe that this pragmatic approach is likely to respond to the daily concerns of our fellow citizens. As opposed to our political opponents, unable to envision rebuilding the State, the Liberal Party has engaged in a thought process to promote the optimal regional distribution of power in Quebec since it came to power in 2014.
As Claude Ryan rightly said in his book Liberal Values in Contemporary Quebec: “We must promote autonomy in our regions, supporting regional initiatives rather than centralized solutions.”
Effective decentralization to benefit citizens
As with any substantial reflection, this exercise is particularly delicate and is based on a subtle equation. From a functional point of view, the reform implemented by the Liberal government must lead to more flexibility and autonomy as well as to a better coordination of political and administrative action. On the political level, this reform aims to satisfy the principle of “proximity,” with the active participation of citizens through their local elected representatives when it comes to major decisions affecting them. These are the two challenges we wanted to meet in the framework of reformed institutional architecture.
To do so, the government decided to abolish some existing regional forums, such as the Regional Conferences of Elected Officers (RCE), created in 2005, and Local Development Centres (CLD). Beyond the pressing need to avoid superimposing structures, which causes overlapping roles and significant transaction costs, we believe that effective decentralization should begin with achieving fundamental objectives, primarily optimizing services for citizens.
Beyond this, effective decentralization should be committed to the notion of the “free exercise of responsibilities” by local stakeholders. Until now, this notion was opposed by the fact that the government in Québec had considerable influence on local affairs. Wanting to break with this hegemonic paternalism repeatedly denounced by Minister Coiteux, the reform aims to place the regionalization process in the hands of elected municipal officials in the regions themselves, so that economic development takes place “in the regions, by the regions and for the regions.” Finally, the decentralization at work will comply with demand-driven principles. The free exercise of responsibilities goes hand in hand with local officials’ accountability.
An ambitious legislative framework to support the government’s voluntary action
The Quebec that we will build together is the Quebec of regions; it is the Quebec of all the regions. No region deserves to miss the prosperity train (…). The Quebec that I want to build with you is a Quebec that decentralizes decision-making powers and provides our regions with the tools they need to fulfil their economic and social development.
– Jean Charest, speech to the QLP General Council, May 31, 2002
The governmental reform is going to operate in the framework of a “trilogy.” The first and second components of this trilogy refer to bills 109 and 121, respectively the Act to grant Ville de Québec national capital status and increase its autonomy and powers and the Act to increase the autonomy and powers of Ville de Montréal, the metropolis of Québec. With these bills, the City of Québec will officially be given the status of national capital and Montréal, the status of metropolis. They will benefit from more significant prerogatives in the fields of taxation and economic and immigration issues. The third component is relative to bill 122, giving more powers and autonomy to municipalities. They will have more latitude in terms of finance, taxation and bureaucracy.
Parallel to this new legislative framework, the government has been proactive with respect to the regions since it began its mandate in 2014. To strengthen competitiveness throughout the regions, we have supported key economic sectors such as the agribusiness, agricultural and mining industries. This policy has produced tangible results, since the unemployment rate dropped significantly in nearly 80% of regions between the spring of 2014 and the fall of 2016 (mid-term). This success reflects the important place that regions occupy in the daily business of a Liberal government.
In addition, in the aim of reducing distances in Quebec and giving our regions access to the world, the government has made significant investments in the digital economy as part of the 2016-17 budget. Among the most significant, an investment of $1.2 billion is devoted to further stimulating regional economic development.
Questions and answers
A: Martin Coiteux explains it in this short video
Nous sommes le parti des régions. Martin Coiteux vous dit pourquoi ↘︎
Posted by Parti libéral du Québec on Saturday, March 24, 2018
- We are the party that recognizes municipalities as local governments;
- We are the party that recognizes the status of the national capital, Québec City;
- We are the party that recognizes the status of Quebec’s metropolis, Montréal;
- We are the party that, for the first time, proposed a strategy for land use and for maintaining the vitality of the regions that was not decided by us in Québec City, but by the elected representatives of each region of Quebec;
- We are the government that created the Regions Support Fund (FARR);
- We are the government that created the Territory Development Fund (FDT);
- We are the government that, unlike the CAQ, understands regional development and knows that we need more workers in every region of Quebec and that no one should be expelled.
We are the party of regional economic development, the party that respects local government and the party for developing the regions.
A: When it came into power in 2014, Philippe Couillard’s Liberal government wanted to optimize governance and reduce structures and bureaucracy in the aim of bettering services for citizens. Over the years, some regional structures’ effectiveness has been debatable. This is why they have been either reorganized or abolished.