François Legault breaks the house!

The Prime Minister amended the social charter of the 1960s, when it included a welfare state based on the principle of equity, in particular to support the studies of young people or in the remuneration of civil servants.

Posted at 11:00am

Jean-Claude Bernatchez

Jean-Claude Bernatchez
Professor of Industrial Relations at the University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières

François Legault starts active life after training in bookkeeping. He then became CEO of Air Transat, which he left in 1997 for politics in the Parti Québécois government. He is in charge of a number of ministries. After purgatory in the opposition, he resigned from government in 2009 and returned to it in 2012 under the banner of the Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ). He hit the jackpot in 2018, when he became Prime Minister. The man knows business and politics. Like no other, he knows how to build a potential of sympathy that a divided opposition cannot bring down.

François Legault infers a provincialist nationalism from this, like Maurice Duplessis, who was prime minister of Quebec for 18 years, notably from 1944 to 1959. Duplessis gave 10 cent coins to children in his popular assemblies.

Francois Legault, 70 years later, hands out $500 “tickets” to families in Quebec. Like Maurice Duplessis, François Legault cherishes, in the eyes of many, the image of a savior in the face of popular misery, in a Quebec that goes from bad to worse.

The barrack in question is the social charter launched in the 1960s by the government of Jean Lesage.

It includes a welfare state based on the principle of equality, in particular to support the education of young people or the remuneration of civil servants. So until the Legault government, regardless of school disciplines, every student was entitled to the same level of student grants. In addition, the salaries of civil servants are derived from a plan to assess the value of the considered jobs in relation to each other.

The old principles no longer apply

The pandemic has increased the workload, especially in healthcare. It has accentuated the job shortage. François Legault has chosen to intervene according to a principle of market economy. His intervention transformed the former equality into wages and support for education based on equal opportunities for all.

More than 70,000 nurses have already sounded the gong. They received a salary increase ranging between $15,000 and $18,000 per year. Granted, nurses rightly feel they deserve it, but they are not alone in the public service. Likewise, the teacher shortage in school boards is very serious.

François Legault’s initiative for nurses upsets the traditional balance of jobs considered in relation to each other. But above all, it has blown up the expectation regime of the 430,000 forgotten officials.

They probably estimate that what applied to the nurses also applies to them. As for inflation, it mobilizes everyone to protect purchasing power in a Quebec that risks collective impoverishment.

Quebecers will no longer be treated equally with regard to their choice of study. The student who progresses in a field that is claimed to be deficient will receive financial support that is clearly superior to other disciplines. Scholarships are awarded after each full-time semester in the courses concerned. At the college level, $1,500 is paid each semester, for a total of $9,000, in a three-year program. At the university level, a fee of $2,500 is paid each semester, for a total of $15,000 in a three-year program and $20,000 in a four-year program.

Quebecers who do not study in the chosen disciplines are excluded. In principle, everything can be bought. But is it fair?

Unions have two main reasons for mobilization. The first is the rebalancing of job pay. The second is to raise wages to a level that protects the purchasing power of their members. This resulted in a common trade union front in April 2022. The state’s annual wage increase policy of 2% would not suffice with a 6% inflation differential.

Meanwhile, baby boomers, now retired, are at risk of aging without adequate facilities, given the scarcity of labor. A major clash between the unions and François Legault is on the horizon in the form of mass general strikes in a public service already on the brink of implosion. In terms of values, Quebecers have never been more divided between young and old, between rich and poor. Putting Quebec back on track after the pandemic with trusting labor relations and a peaceful active force is certainly the next mountain François Legault will have to climb.

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