LAVAL, Que. — Quebec Premier François Legault hasn't officially triggered the provincial election campaign, but he was out on Friday promising to build thousands of new social and affordable housing units if he's re-elected Oct. 3.
The leader of the Coalition Avenir Québec promised Wednesday to fund 11,700 new units over the next four years if his party wins a second term. Quebec, he said, will need 23,500 additional social and affordable housing units over the next 10 years.
"We took it upon ourselves, the CAQ, to evaluate the need for the next mandate at 11,700, so about half of what's needed over the next 10 years," he told reporters in Laval, Que., a Montreal suburb, accompanied by local candidates. Legault said his party would also subsidize rent for 7,200 housing units. He promised his party would spend $1.8 billion over the next four years to address the province's housing shortage.
The announcement was quickly criticized by opposition parties, who said the promise falls short of the real need.
Saul Polo, a Liberal member of the legislature who represents a Laval riding, said the province is missing 50,000 housing units.
"Just for the region of Laval, we're talking about 10,000 families that have housing needs. We have 1,300 families that are currently on waiting lists for social housing," he said in an interview.
Québec solidaire described the announcement as a "damp squib," given that 37,000 people are on waiting lists across the province.
While Legault has yet to announce an official start date for the fall election campaign, Quebec's main party leaders have been criss-crossing the province for weeks holding public appearances and naming candidates.
Recent polls suggest Legault's party has a commanding lead, with more than double the support of its nearest rival.
Legault said the unofficial campaign — which has started earlier than in previous election cycles — is a result of the province's fixed election date, but he said the party in power doesn't have an advantage.
"It's fair, because we all know that the general election will be Oct. 3," he said.
Other parties are also announcing candidates and making election promises, Legault said. "We can see it's not just the CAQ that's already in pre-election campaign."
The Liberal party revealed its platform in June, while the Conservative Party of Quebec is expected to officially launch its platform this weekend.
"It's up to each party to decide its strategy," Legault said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 12, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Frédéric Lacroix-Couture, The Canadian Press