QUEBEC CITY — First day of session, first protest.
The cement workers picketing just outside the National Assembly on Tuesday urged the Quebec Liberal government not to build a new plant in the Gaspe. They are concerned because the existing plants are operating at 60 per cent capacity.
“If the priority of this government is to create employment, surely to goodness, you want to first preserve the jobs you already have,” argued Unifor assistant-director Joseph Gargiso.
Jobs and spending controls will be front and centre this spring in Quebec.
The province’s Finance Minister got the ball rolling on Tuesday by meeting with his federal counterpart, Joe Oliver. Private investment is key, they agreed. A decision on the Gaspe cement plant issue is yet to come.
“We’ll make a decision after we take a detailed look at the business case,” Carlos Leitao told reporters.
Leitao is set to unveil his budget in June, but before that can happen, there is a bit of housekeeping to do. Westmount MNA Jacques Chagnon has been re-elected Speaker, and old bills have been put back on the order paper: legislation creating an inspector general for Montreal and Bill 52 Dying with dignity are ready for adoption.
Opposition parties said they would cooperate, but they have mentioned that they have other hopes as well.
“We hope the government will abolish the health tax: $200 per person for people earning $45, 000 or less, and of course the hydro electricity fees, reduce them from 4.3 per cent to 2.2 per cent,” said Coalition Avenir Quebec House Leader François Bonnardel.
The only shadow on an otherwise bright day, was the news that former Liberal minister Tony Tomassi will be pleading guilty to charges of fraud and breach of trust rather than stand trial.
“We’re making savings in money but we’re making savings of information also,” argued Parti Quebecois MNA Stéphane Bergeron, adding it would have been in the public’s interest to hear details of the case.
But Quebec’s premier insisted that this kind of wrongdoing was in the past.
“As far as I’m concerned, there are no similar circumstances now,” said Philippe Couillard.
Couillard will outline his vision for the next four and a half years in an inaugural address on Wednesday and opposition parties will get their first chance to grill the new government later this week.