Premier François Legault apologizes to mayors after calling them ‘beggars’

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Quebec premier strikes conciliatory note, apologizes to mayors at annual conference
WATCH: Premier François Legault is saying sorry to mayors across Quebec after calling them beggars earlier this month. As Gloria Henriquez reports, the comments caused anger and resentment between the two levels of government. The question now is whether an apology will be enough to mend relationships and solve the various issues on the table – May 23, 2024

Two weeks after he called Quebec mayors “beggars” for asking for more financing for public transit, Quebec premier François Legault extended an olive branch by way of humour.

“I know there is an elephant in the room,” Legault said during his speech at the Quebec Union of Municipalities’ annual conference. “I’m not here to ‘beg’ for applause in the room. I won’t use this word again,” he said, as the crowd laughed and indeed, applauded.

“It’s the time for peace,” he said.

Legault’s conciliatory tone appears to have worked.

“I think he’s sincere,” said Quebec City Mayor Bruno Marchand.

Longueuil Mayor Catherine Fournier also welcomed the premier’s apology.

“He was very humble to do so, I think we just turn the page now. It’s like a new page,” Fournier said.

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A new page, with some old writing on it. Despite showing goodwill, Legault insists, the government doesn’t have more money to give municipalities.

“There are all sorts of possible solutions,” said Martin Damphousse, the president of Quebec’s Union of Municipalities. “I understand money doesn’t grow on trees. But there are many ways to get there.”

Legault’s comments come as the Regional Metropolitan Transit Authority (ARTM) is sounding the alarm over a $700 million deficit.

Municipalities have been pleading with the province for additional funding for public transit for months now.

“We expect to progress with the discussions to reach an agreement on how we’re going to face the deficit that is very concerning,” Fournier said.

A meeting between metropolitan mayors and Quebec’s transport minister Geneviève Guilbault is scheduled for Friday to discuss permanent and recurring financing for public transit.

The meeting will be a chance to show how far the olive branch extends.


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