Quebec Liberals happy with spring session

WATCH: It was the last day of spring session at Quebec’s National Assembly, and Caroline Plante takes a look at what was achieved and reviews some of the drama.

QUEBEC CITY — The Quebec Liberals were ending the spring session at the National Assembly 71-strong.

Byelection wins

They won two important by-elections this week, in the Quebec City ridings of Chauveau and Jean-Talon.

On Friday Premier Philippe Couillard attributed the victories to the Liberal’s so-called austerity agenda.

“What I heard the most when I met people in Chauveau and Jean-Talon is “lâchez-pas.” We know why you’re doing this and we need you to do this for our children,” Couillard told reporters on the last day of the parliamentary session.

But the past few months haven’t always been such happy times for the Liberal Party.

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Education fallout

The session began with Education Minister Yves Bolduc quitting over controversial comments.

He was replaced by François Blais, who quickly announced he was scrapping school board elections.

Healthcare controversy

In healthcare, Gaétan Barrette forced through his administrative reform and made doctors furious when he tabled Bill 20 introducing patient quotas, later cutting a deal with family physicians.

The Liberals also used closure to pass Bill 28 introducing a sliding scale for daycare fees. More recently, the Liberals tabled e-cigarette legislation, as well as two bills on religious neutrality and hate speech.

New PQ leader

The session also saw media mogul Pierre Karl Péladeau take his place as leader of the Parti Québécois, while a possible conflict-of-interest due to his involvement with Quebecor was being studied in committee.

“I intend to keep my shares in Quebecor, I intend to put them in a blind trust,” he said.

Sovereignty revived

Péladeau’s determination to make Quebec a country revived the federalist-sovereignist debate, to François Legault’s dismay.

In the recent byelection, the CAQ lost a riding it was supposed to win hands-down.

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“I knew at the beginning of 2015 that it would be a tough year because we didn’t have much visibility to explain our program,” Legault said.

Uniting for freedom of speech

The session finished with parties coming together over First Nations and imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.

Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil said that this kind of collaboration was “perhaps the most heartening feature of the National Assembly.”

MNAs packed their bags Friday and headed back to their ridings.

But a dark cloud is hanging over this new-found harmony: unions will be negotiating collective agreements all summer, and they are threatening to call a general strike in the fall.

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