Premier Pauline Marois has announced plans to table a major anti-corruption bill after the legislature opens next week, which improves the chances that her minority government might win a major legislative victory in its early days.
With public outrage over the corruption being described at the province's ongoing inquiry, the PQ will not wait for the Charbonneau commission to wrap up next year before making changes to the rules for tendering public contracts.
"These testimonies are very shocking and we want to correct this situation," Marois told reporters Friday.
Marois kept mum on the details of the planned legislation. She did reveal, however, that the corruption-fighting bill will be tabled soon after the inagugural speech next Wednesday.
The bill would make it more difficult for companies linked to wrongdoing to win public contracts, reportedly not just in the construction sector but also in areas like information technology.
The increased focus on fighting corruption comes after a bumpy first few weeks in office.
The PQ was forced to backpedal on several files after statements from ministers on education policy, taxation, language laws and shale-gas development. With only a minority, the PQ appears to face a particularly intense struggle to get its fiscal policies through the legislature.
The party has promised to scrap a $200 health tax — but it hasn't won any opposition support for its planned tax hikes that would replace the lost revenue.
Marois admitted it had been a turbulent first few weeks in office. She brushed it off as the result of the PQ moving quickly to keep its election promises.
"I never got the sense I was losing control," she said Friday after a caucus retreat.
"I maybe hit the accelerator a little hard... We are people who keep our word."
She said the party perhaps caused a stir by moving so quickly. The PQ shut down the asbestos industry, closed an aging nuclear power plant, scrapped tuition hikes and cancelled the health tax — all at its first cabinet meeting.
Then its ministers started making headlines by musing publicly about contentious policies, like de-funding private schools, and quickly backtracking.
Marois said she will try to make less of a stir from now on — but she will not stop trying to implement her promises.
One such promise is to toughen the province's language laws.
The PQ has suggested it could extend enrolment restrictions at English educational institutions to junior colleges and, perhaps, even to daycares although it backed down on the latter idea; it has also talked about applying language rules to smaller businesses.
Marois says she'll table the legislation she has promised to table and, once that's done, she will be open to suggestions from the opposition. If other parties wind up completely blocking the language bill, Marois says, Quebecers will know whom to blame.
"If that's not the case, the public will know who's blocking it," Marois said.
"So I'll table (different bills) just as I intended to. Once they're there, I won't be dogmatic. I will be open to amendments. And some bills will die."
She said new language laws are required to halt the decline of French following the latest federal census figures.
The latest figures show that the number of Montrealers who use only French at home has dropped seven percentage points over the last decade, to 39 per cent. However, that change stems from immigration and urban sprawl — not necessarily from a shift towards English.