François Legault reaching out to the Anglo community in strong Liberal riding
PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG
CAQ leader François Legault (right) passed by the office of Your Local Journal last week to speak with editor Carmen Marie Fabio (left) and publisher Monique Bissonnette to pitch his party’s platform to the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region.
Though he unveiled his new political party in French only in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue six years ago, François Legault is now looking to connect with the Anglophone community to discuss his Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) party platform on issues including education, immigration, and why he’s not interested in Quebec separation.
“I started the CAQ to offer an alternative,” Legault said as he passed by the office of Your Local Journal last week. “Especially for people who are not for the sovereignty of Quebec. I used to be sovereigntist – I’m not anymore. I would like to see the first election in the last 45 years where the valid question won’t be, ‘Am I sovereigntist or not?’ I would like for the two priorities to be economy and education.”
Legault said the CAQ wants complete control in who immigrates to Quebec as opposed to their current law that says the province has say in 70 per cent of newcomers while the remaining 30 is dictated at the federal level.
“It’s not only a question of language; it’s a question of values.” Legault elaborated, saying immigrants will always be welcome here but they must accept our values, specifying equality between men and women. “Those who don’t believe in equality between men and women must not be welcome in Quebec.” Legault said with 50,000 immigrants arriving annually, the concept of equal value between the genders is a message that must be sent.
Reached in Quebec City, Soulanges Liberal MNA Lucie Charlebois had a different view, pointing out the large immigrant community in the region. “I don’t feel like I’m living in a strange land,” she said. “Yes immigrants must have Quebec values and must contribute to Quebec society. That concept has existed since Jean Charest was premier.”
The historic stronghold of Liberal votes in our region was questioned by Legault. “If the CAQ wasn’t there, the Liberal Party would be in power forever.” He said the Anglophone votes, and the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region is taken for granted by the Liberal Party.
“There are both Anglophones and Francophones in the Soulanges region and they’re the ones who elected me,” said Charlebois. “I don’t take any vote for granted and I never will. I meet citizens on a regular basis and I am always in my riding every weekend. I meet the media too, but I’m the type of person who goes to the people to hear what they have to say. Maybe Mr. Legault should be doing that in his own riding.”
Legault said significant differences lie between the long-discussed logistical hubs in Vaudreuil-Soulanges and Contrecoeur and while the latter is well positioned for shipping by water, Vaudreuil-Soulanges – with three major highways and two railways – is better suited. He says that area MNAs Lucie Charlebois and Marie-Claude Nichols are not strongly advocating for the logistical hub as they assume the region will continue to support the Liberal Party in the next election.
“As for the logistical hub, we’re still working on Bill 85. It’s been deposited and now we have to study it,” countered Charlebois. “If Mr. Legault had followed the work we’ve been doing in the National Assembly, he’d know that.”
In light of previous cuts in education budgets, Legault said the CAQ party would implement changes including additional monies for special education and for kids to start school at the age of four to maximize the efficiency of intervention programs including autism, dysphasia, and Attention Deficit Disorder for special needs students.
As the Minister for Rehabilitation, Youth Protection, Public Health and Healthy Living, Charlebois recently announced $29 million annual five-year investment in services and programs for people with autism spectrum disorders.
“We have to identify (special needs) ideally by the age of 3,” Legault said, citing a cost of about $290 million to implement. “We can’t afford not to.” He also advocates schools being open longer hours to offer homework help and is looking to increase sports and arts programs. “Public schools should offer the same programs as private schools.”
Charlebois announced no education cuts in the recent Liberal budget, announcing $1.8 billion “to enhance support for students throughout their school path.”
Legault said the idea of starting school earlier is meeting resistance from the union for daycare workers who would see a reduction in clientele. He also said that while he’s in favour of bilingual public education, teachers’ unions are the ones who are putting up the greatest fight against it.
The CAQ proposes cutting 20,000 provincial government jobs over a period of four years to bring the workforce in line with other provinces and to inject the money back into the middle class. Salary increases have not kept up with taxation increases and Legault spoke about meeting families unable to pay all their bills. “I think Mr. Couillard doesn’t understand how urgent it is to help middle class families.”
Legault also proposes dipping into the $2.5 billion held by the Fonds des générations, taking half on a temporary basis to distribute $1300 to Quebec families to make up for increases in school tax, daycare costs, and Hydro electricity costs.
The CAQ leader also decried the proposal by the Union des municipalités du Québec (UMQ) that would no longer require municipal notices be printed in public newspapers, thereby affecting their bottom line.
“We need small newspapers for democracy,” he said. “The $36 million in the current budget (for local news) is for internet platforms. There’s nothing there for actual papers. We have to find a way to give newspapers more money assuring competition, more information, and democracy.” Legault said it should be a responsibility of all political parties to help newspapers.
For a recap of the recent Liberal budget, see New Quebec budget benefits Vaudreuil-Soulanges say MNAs