Quebec pride dominates all other issues at the CAQ’s general meeting

The CAQ wants to promote the idea that they are proud people; proud of themselves, proud to be Quebecers. This is the main message that the party chooses to convey to the population four months before the election.

François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) has chosen to evacuate all themes unrelated to pride in being Quebecers for its last major rally before the next general campaign.

All day Saturday, the word pride was on everyone’s lips, repeated at every moment, hammered on stage, in the hallways and in press briefings and speeches by ministers of the Legault government.

The CAQ convention, which is being held in Drummondville all weekend, brings together between 1,000 and 1,400 party members, under heavy police surveillance, in the presence of party leader and Premier François Legault, who received a triumphant welcome on his arrival in the morning, accompanied by his wife, Isabelle Brais.

The Centrexpo, where the convention is held, has been transformed into a veritable fortress, protected from potential intruders by a large, fully fenced perimeter. Several streets in the city center were also blocked.

The police spared no effort so that nothing and no one came to disturb the event: some police officers were on foot, others in cars, on horseback, on bicycles, on motorbikes, in all-terrain vehicles.

Dogs were also present, the riot squad was on the lookout and drones were flying over the site.

Anyone cannot enter the building. You need to show your credentials and go through airport type security.

There were few demonstrators outside in the morning, a few hundred at most.

The first day of the conference went off without a hitch. The event, co-hosted by the future CAQ candidate in Sherbrooke, former Bloc member Caroline St-Hilaire, will serve mainly to stir up the troops and recruit volunteers ready to get involved during the election campaign in all the regions of Quebec at the end of the summer.

Everything is in place to give a fluid image of government action, while on Saturday morning the ministers present at the meeting justified the party’s choice not to tackle any issue likely to embarrass the government or cause a debate on one of the major issues that make up political news on a daily basis.

None of the 23 resolutions studied by the deputies, and dispatched in less than two hours, dealt with waiting times in the emergency room for surgery, the aging of the population, the serious shortage of manpower, the housing, the third link between Lévis and Quebec or the glaring lack of child care spaces.

Not a word about the increase in the cost of living, nor about the fight against greenhouse gases.

In a press briefing, Environment Minister Benoît Charette declared that Quebec had “every reason to be very proud” of its environmental record.

Every party convention has a theme, he said, although a Léger poll conducted the same day showed that nearly one in two voters (48%) are dissatisfied with the government’s environmental record.

Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault said she does not see pride as a secondary issue.

“It’s a question that deserves as much attention as any other,” she said.

The Deputy Premier of Quebec and Minister of Public Security, Geneviève Guilbault, answers questions from journalists upon her arrival at the annual convention of the Coalition Avenir Québec. in Drummondville, Quebec on Saturday, May 28, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

She added that people are prouder than ever to be Quebecers, thanks to the actions of the government, which has reignited the nationalist flame over the past four years.

There are other forums for party members to express their views on various issues, she said.

Transport Minister Chantal Rouleau commented that there were “debates all year round” within the CAQ.

The package of proposals, all tinged with strong nationalist sentiment and centered on identity issues, included better teaching of Quebec history, revision of the teaching of French in primary and secondary schools, better protection of heritage buildings, increased support for Quebec television and film productions and the creation of a history museum.

Echoing the Prime Minister’s recent statements, a resolution was adopted asking the federal government to transfer all powers in matters of immigration to Quebec.

The idea of ​​a referendum on the subject was quickly ruled out.

Unsurprisingly, all resolutions were passed smoothly and without controversy in less than two weeks.

Quebecers will have to wait until the end of the summer to find out what the CAQ’s electoral platform will be on all the other questions likely to interest voters.

Most CAQ members and ministers were present at the convention. The minister responsible for seniors, Marguerite Blais, received a standing ovation. The Minister of Agriculture, André Lamontagne, gave a long speech with a nationalist flavor, aimed at taking stock of government action which, according to him, is a source of collective pride.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault shakes hands with delegates as he attends the Coalition Avenir Quebec annual conference in Drummondville, Que., Saturday, May 28, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

The ministers also engaged in a question-and-answer session with the activists present in the room, and no one was hurt. The questions were accommodating and the comments were glowing.

Legault will deliver a speech on the theme of pride in being Quebecers on Sunday morning. It will also be an opportunity to announce the candidates for the next elections.

— This report from The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 28, 2022.