Quebec Premier François Legault has laid out his plans for the next four years in his inaugural speech, reiterating many of his campaign promises in what he describes as a “daring vision” and inviting Quebecers to abandon the fear of change.
“This fear is the opposite of audacity,” he said.
The new Coalition Avenir Québec government, which ousted the Quebec Liberals from power on Oct. 1, will not be backing down from some of its more controversial pledges.
Legault maintained his plans for religious neutrality and secularism in the province. This includes a proposed ban which would bar certain state employees — including teachers, police officers and judges — from wearing religious symbols in the workplace.
“It’s a reasonable position,” he said on Wednesday. “We will therefore be very firm, and we will move quickly.”
While the proposed ban has sparked protests in Montreal and accusations from teachers that the CAQ is trying to create a problem where none exists, Legault maintains it has widespread support from across the province.
WATCH: François Legault stands firm on proposed religious symbol ban
The new premier also stood by reducing immigration levels by nearly 20 per cent, saying it would “help better integrate immigrants to the work market, to the francophone majority and to our common values.”
The province will also move forward with increasing the minimum age to buy and possess cannabis from 18 to 21, he said.
Promises for business, action against climate change
Under his leadership, Legault said the provincial government is focused on business opportunities, economic development and creating a prosperous province.
“Entrepreneurs, take out the projects tucked away in your drawers,” he said.
“Now is the time to invest.”
While the CAQ didn’t campaign strongly on fighting climate change, Legault addressed the issue in his inaugural speech.
He laid out plans to sell hydroelectricity to Quebec’s neighbours down south, saying he hopes Quebec will become “the battery of the northeast United States.”
Legault also spoke of the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but he wouldn’t commit to 2020 objectives of reducing target emissions by 20 per cent.
The province’s opposition parties have criticized the CAQ government, arguing Legault is too focused on business objectives and not doing enough when it comes to fighting climate change.
“Going the extra mile for the environment doesn’t seem to be very appealing for him,” said Parti Québécois interim leader Pascal Bérubé.
WATCH: Quebec Premier François Legault speaks directly to English-speaking Quebecers in his inaugural speech.
Focus on education, abolishing school boards
The new premier said his government’s top priority is education. He promised to never introduce budget cuts in the case of an economic recession.
Legault also pledged more funding to prevent the province from lagging behind in academic success and maintained his election promise to create kindergarten for four-year-olds.
The CAQ government will also abolish school boards to replace them with service centres — even though English school boards have said they would mount a legal challenge to prevent them from being dismantled.
In his speech, Legault also had a message for English-speaking Quebecers.
WATCH BELOW: Quebec politicians head back to work
“We are proud to protect your historical rights and we will keep on doing just that,” he said.
— With files from The Canadian Press