Quebec is known to have a doctor shortage and an exodus of great minds. Students across the globe come to Quebec for quality and inexpensive education only to leave to other provinces like Ontario or the United States to get better working conditions. Today, CAQ leader Francois Legault made an announcement to McGill Med students telling them that he will penalize them if they decide to pursue their career outside of Quebec.
"I will not rule out using the notwithstanding clause, if necessary, to ensure that we keep more doctors who study at McGill," he told Le Devoir newspaper.
"It doesn't make sense that at McGill, after five year, half of the doctors have left Quebec."
Francois Legault, Leader of Coalition Avenir du Quebec
Legault says the notwithstanding clause can be used to force med graduates to repay the $160,000 cost of their education. The main CAQ health spokesman Gaétan Barrette has cautioned that today’s announcement is not official CAQ policy and Legault never specified how he would enact section 33 of the Charter of Rights to Le Devoir.
"Mr. Legault expressed his opinion on that. This is not to me a formal position by the party, but it something that is clearly on the table," Barrette told CBC Montreal.
In 2009, only 55% of MDs from McGill University filed as practicing medicine in Quebec. Of the other 45%, about half of them went to Ontario and the other half went abroad, mostly to the United States.
The head of Quebec’s medical association said it would be unfair to fault Quebec students who decide to practice outside of Quebec.
"The question we need to ask is why they leave Quebec. And the reason is not because they don't want to serve the population here," said Charles Dussault, president of the Fédération des médecins résidents du Québec.
"It's because we don't offer them jobs or we don't offer them of sufficient quality, and that's the problem. And by forcing them to pay their training, we don’t address the problem."
Charles Dussault, president of the Fédération des médecins résidents du Québec
The trend of MDs leaving the province is not noticed in French universities University of Montreal and Sherbrooke University where 90% and 76% respectively of MDs stay in Quebec.
This observation points to one additional factor, other than money and taxes, as to why McGill MDs leave Quebec and that is language laws which force Quebec workers to use French in the workplace.
In the process of trying to repair a healthcare system that’s understaffed and short of doctors and nurses, Francois Legault decided to dodge the fundamental issues that come to play. He decided to take aim at English students who are leaving due to obvious reasons: the salaries here are subpar, working conditions are better elsewhere, taxes are much lower elsewhere and they are not obliged to speak French elsewhere. Instead of addressing the issues that turn off McGill MDs, Legault has decided to try to blackmail and threaten them into working in conditions that are unfavorable to them and has decided to block the freedom of these MDs to move elsewhere where the working climate is better and the government isn’t so overbearing.
Instead of trying to take away the freedoms and rights of Quebec students, perhaps Legault should focus on making Quebec medicine more lucrative by increasing salaries, lowering taxes and minimizing the impact of French language laws.