François Legault held his first official press conference as premier Friday morning in Quebec City, touching on numerous issues from school boards to banning religious symbols and flood compensation.
Legault answered numerous questions of particular concern to the English-speaking community and minority groups in the province.
The premier reiterated his intention to get rid of school boards and replace them with service centres, arguing the move will allow for more public money to go directly to schools where it is needed.
In the past, the English school boards have said they would mount a legal challenge to prevent school boards from being dismantled.
When pressed about invoking the notwithstanding clause to go ahead with the reform, Legault said he didn’t feel it would be necessary.
”What is important is that the anglophone community keep their institutions,” he said, arguing English-speakers will have representation within the service centres. “The parents will choose who is on the board of the service centres.”
He also emphasized the need to reform school board elections.
“Even on the anglophone side, the participation rate is under 20 per cent,” he said, adding his government’s priority when it comes to education is about improving services for children.
“Even if we keep nine service centres instead of nine school boards, I think it’s important that the money that is spent — which is about $20 million — is spent for services instead of an election where the participation rate is so low.”
When it comes to relations with the English-speaking community, Legault defended his decision to appoint a parliamentary assistant rather than a minister to the secretariat.
“First, Christopher Skeete will report to me,” he said. “It means I will get involved trying to ensure that anglophones understand that I want to work with them.”
“I want that the anglophones feel that they are well represented.”
Skeete said much the same when speaking to reporters after his appointment Thursday.
WATCH: Christopher Skeete, an MNA for the Coalition Avenir Québec, will be in charge of the secretariat for relations with English-speaking Quebecers
On the banning of religious signs for people in positions of authority, Legault said his position hadn’t changed.
He did nuance his response though in reference to teachers, saying his Coalition Avenir Québec government plans to hold consultations to make sure it has majority support for its ideas.
Legault also spent time trying to reassure Montrealers — especially those who didn’t vote for the Coalition Avenir Québec — that his government has the city’s best interests at heart, despite having only two MNAs from Montreal.
He said the province’s success hinges on the success of its metropolis and that improving the economy was a top priority.
“As you know, I am not happy with Quebec’s economic situation and I think we can not improve the situation without improving the Montreal situation.”
There was also good news for flood victims and victims of other natural disasters, with Legualt explaining he had tasked Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault with streamlining the process to ensure rapid compensation.