Opposition parties slammed the Parti Québécois government for being "disconnected from reality" and for failing to take tough enough measures to curb corruption, as the government went into winter recess Friday following a jam-packed first legislative session.
Both the Liberals and the Coalition Avenir Québec party gave the government a failing grade on its handling of the economy and criticized Marois for backtracking on electoral promises, that she was never in a financial position to keep.
But Premier Pauline Marois said she brought about more positive changes in 90 days than the Liberals did in nine years.
From reversing university tuition hikes, to introducing new anti-corruption legislation, Marois said she delivered on her campaign promises.
Acting Liberal leader Jean-Marc Fournier said the PQ's first budget contained unnecessary spending cuts that will affect public services, and he said the recently-tabled proposed language legislation, Bill 14, treats English as if it were a foreign language.
"There are many, many aspects where the government is going in the wrong direction," Fournier said.
Marois replied to the criticism and said that she has been concilliatory with opposition parties on some policies.
Government 'by trial and error,' Legault charges
Coalition Avenir Québec leader François Legault accused Pauline Marois of showing a lack of judgment.
Legault criticized a string of patronage appointments, including the naming of failed PQ candidate Nicolas Girard to head Montreal's public transit agency and, most recently, Marois's decision to give former Parti Québécois leader André Boisclair a lifelong position in the Quebec civil service.
Legault said Marois's reversal on the Boisclair decision the day after it was announced, far from demonstrating wisdom, was evidence of a government that "manages by trial and error."
The Liberals' Fournier echoed that view.
"Recognized error is one thing. Repeating the error is another thing," Fournier said. "Her fault is to hide the nomination, hide the fact he had a 'two-for-one.'"
Legault said the government's first legislative initiative, a bill to end fraud and collusion in the tendering of public contracts, does not go far enough to address a long list of corrupt practises.
He reserved some praise for the government for its second bill, which aims to limit individual donations to provincial political parties to $100 a year, but once again said the proposed legislation needs to go further and address the issue of municipal party financing as well.
Universities in crisis, opposition says
The CAQ leader called on Marois to take heed of a warning from university administrators that their need for more financing is urgent.
"Not only did the PQ prefer to take away what little room to manoeuvre that the universities had, by imposing a tuition freeze and increasing loans and bursaries," Legault said, "but they're in denial that the universities are underfinanced, and now they are planning further cuts."
It's clear if those cuts go ahead, they will hurt student services, he added.
"The essence of the growth in the economy is in the university," Fournier said. If you cut there, well, you are preparing cuts in revenue for the government....This is the same thing that happened when Mme. Marois [cut] the health sector 15 years ago, with Mr. Legault."
"The effect will be felt for many, many years."
Legault said the government is ignoring the state of Quebec's economy at its peril, adding his own caucus would make it a priority to come up with its own proposals in the coming year.
"I cannot accept that Quebec continue to be underperforming compared to the rest of North America," he said.
Despite his criticism, Legault said he doubted the opposition would trigger an election in the months to come, since the Liberals will not have a leader until spring 2013 and are unlikely to want to return to the polls while the Charbonneau commission holds public hearings.
"I think we'll unfortunately have to suffer this government for the next year," Legault concluded.
Most vulnerable left behind, says Québec Solidaire
The two MNAs representing left-leaning Québec Solidaire also called the government's first three months in office 'disappointing.'
Party spokeswoman Françoise David described the session as rancorous and counter-productive.
David said the poor and most vulnerable are being left behind by the PQ government's initiatives.
Amir Khadir, the MNA for Mercier, said fundamentally, the government had business interests at heart.
He said the Marois administration made one good decision in its first days in office, shutting down asbestos mining in Quebec.