Rona-Lowe's deal, UberX flap dominate 1st question period of 2016 at National Assembly

Possible job losses due to the Rona-Lowe's deal and the 'lamentable' shape of Quebec schools dominated question period as Quebec politicians returned to business at the National Assembly.

Economy, 'lamentable' shape of Quebec schools dominate question period as legislative session resumes

Parti Québécois Leader Pierre Karl Peladeau sees his party slipping in the polls, even while many Quebecers say they're dissatisfied with the Liberal government that's in power. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Quebec's MNAs took part in the first question period of the year as the session resumed today at the National Assembly.

As expected, Parti Québécois Leader Pierre Karl Péladeau continued his attack on the Couillard government over the Rona-Lowe's merger. The U.S. hardware chain announced its plan to purchase the smaller Quebec-based retailer last week.

Péladeau charged the government with failing to stand up for Rona, saying "many states protect their companies."

Premier Philippe Couillard responded that the PQ is "trying to build a wall around Quebec." However, the government has backed off somewhat from the positive tone it took when the Rona-Lowe's deal was first announced.

In response to a question from Péladeau about possible job losses, Premier Philippe Couillard said that the government shares the PQ's concern.

Couillard said Economy Minister Dominique Anglade was working on getting guarantees from Lowe's to keep jobs in Quebec. He pointed out the success of other big Quebec firms, including Saputo and Couche-Tard, at acquiring their competitors south of the border.

'Lamentable' state of Quebec schools

The opposition PQ also played up the physical condition of Quebec schools.

Education critic Alexandre Cloutier said there are 500 school buildings in 'lamentable' condition.

The Liberal house leader, Jean-Marc Fournier, replied that "the will is there" to improve those conditions.

UberX hearings to proceed

Taxi driver Éric Auger was among those protesting outside the National Assembly on Tuesday, saying business has dropped by 30 per cent since the arrival of UberX in Quebec City. (CBC/Catou MacKinnon)

With the taxi industry in both Quebec City and Montreal up at arms over indications that the government is prepared to regulate the controversial ride-hailing service UberX, that issue, too, came up in question period today.

Earlier today, taxi drivers picketed outside the National Assembly, calling on the government to declare UberX illegal and shut the service down.

In Montreal, cabbies are planning a strike Wednesday, vowing to disrupt traffic and refuse to offer rides to clients.

The PQ is calling on the government to postpone hastily organized parliamentary hearings into the question of just how to regulate UberX – a suggestion that the new transport minister, Jacques Daoust, rejected out of hand.

Péladeau's professional, marital woes

Péladeau starts off the session with trouble on both the professional and personal fronts.

January was a rough month for Péladeau, with questions he could or would not answer about his proposed sovereignty think tank, internal staff troubles and a series of stories about the use of foreign tax havens during his time as head of Quebecor.

He also separated from his wife, popular television producer and host Julie Snyder. Snyder softened his image, humanizing the man with a reputation as a harsh businessman, so Péladeau's personal turmoil could have political ramifications, too.

Certainly it's clear none of this is helping the Parti Québécois in the polls.

The latest CROP survey shows the PQ's popularity is slipping – down three points from November – sitting at 29 per cent.

Despite the fact that Quebecers say they're dissatisfied with the Couillard government nearly two years into a mandate marked by deep cuts to spending, the Liberals are actually up a point, to 36 per cent.


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