FIQ (Fédération Interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec)

Jean Charest’s inaugural address:Nothing reassuring

On Wednesday, May 9, 2007, Jean Charest delivered his inaugural address
to the 38th Legislature of the National Assembly. Three parties are represented
and, for the first time since 1878, Quebec has a minority government.

After the usual greetings and congratulations, particularly to the Speaker,
the first Aboriginal MNA in 80 years and the youngest MNA elected to the
National Assembly, Mr. Charest repeated that he clearly understood the
message sent by Quebecers on March 26 – a real desire for change.
He also announced his intention to work in cooperation with the two opposition
parties.

To nobody’s great surprise, the Premier laid out his recent successes:
highest credit rating, lowest unemployment rate, establishment of a plan
to fight climate change, etc. However, he did not emphasize points such
as taxes, for which the reduction was less than announced. The Federation
has always opposed this tax cut, arguing that this money could be reinvested
in the health-care network.

Quebecers have a fantastic future”, he declared.
The Federation has serious questions about the wonderful future the government
in power anticipates.

Regarding health, what kind of future can Quebecers hope for when the
threat of a two-tier system is on the verge of becoming reality? Mr. Charest
claims he wants to facilitate retirement from the labour market and access
to health care for Quebec’s aging population. He really seems to
have forgotten the situation prevailing in the network: labour shortage
and extremely difficult working conditions for health professionals, to
name only these two problems. Instead of adding human and financial resources
to the public system, he is opening the door wide to the private sector.

He alleges his government’s desire for social justice to explain
the introduction of private funding and private services in health care.
The Federation affirms that these choices are purely political and are
unrelated to the principles of free, accessible and universal health care.
A two-tier system will simply ensure that the more affluent have privileged
access to care, while all the taxpayers who finance this system will have
to wait their turn in the public sector.

To justify resorting to the private sector, the Charest Government argues
that it must respond to the Chaoulli decision, that it has received an
order from the Supreme Court and that it must comply with it. However,
the Government’s response goes much farther than it was required
and it appears obvious that it is using the Court judgment as an alibi
to advance what it had been seeking to do for a long time – open
up health services to the private sector.

In his address, Mr. Charest also reiterated that tuition fees will be
unfrozen. The Federation deplores this situation and is worried about
the contradictory statements made by a Premier who claims that education
is a priority of his government and that the nation’s future depends
on it. The Federation finds it very simplistic that the only actions planned
to stimulate success in school are to combat junk food and introduce numbered
grading.

The Federation also questions the Premier’s silence on electoral
reform. It hopes that this silence does not mean that the status quo will
be maintained and calls on the Government to honour its commitments on
this issue. For the new electoral system to be in force for the next election,
the study and implementation process must begin immediately.

Mr. Charest concluded his address by listing his government’s eight
short-term objectives, which he claimed are intended to improve Quebecers’ quality
of life. Thus, he announced a new tax cut, the opening of private clinics
affiliated to the public health-care network, the unfreezing of tuition
fees and the improvement of the loans and bursaries system, measures to
eliminate junk food in schools, the return to numbered grading for the
next school year, the creation of a royalty on hydrocarbons, the settlement
of the agglomeration councils issue and the adoption of a law on semi-automatic
firearms.

The Federation is particularly worried about the measures announced
for the health-care and education networks. It wishes to remind the Charest
Government that it is staying on the alert and will be there to defend its
members on issues that affect them as citizens and care professionals.

Yours in solidarity ,