Debate at National Assembly after Quebec premier accused of ‘mansplaining’
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard is being hotly criticized for comments he made Monday about parity between men and women in politics.
This was underscored by an uncomfortable exchange Tuesday in a National Assembly budget credits commission between the premier and Parti Québécois (PQ) MNA Catherine Fournier.
She asked the premier why young people appointed to sit on the board of directors for crown corporations were often affiliated with the Liberal Party.
Some are calling the premier’s reply condescending and paternalistic.
The premier said, “I am excessively disappointed to hear the youngest MNA at the National Assembly behave in this way. I thought that for her part, she would do politics differently.”
As the debate went on, things got a little personal; Couillard said he was surprised Fournier would criticize young people for being interested in politics and if she had names to propose for the board, he would consider them.
“Frankly, I was surprised, I was surprised by the tone used, by the words used by the premier,” Fournier said later.
She added that she was undeterred to continue her line of questioning, “because my questions were perfectly legitimate.”
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When asked about his tone, Couillard told reporters Wednesday, “It wasn’t paternalistic. I was responding to a partisan attack.”
Before the debate, the premier gave a speech Tuesday to promote gender parity.
“We need to not just talk about the participation of women in politics, but more broadly of their whole, truly equal place in society,” Couillard said.
He insisted the Liberal Party would commit to reaching the “parity zone” after the next election — at least 40 per cent women — but cautioned against gender balance because he pointed out it was also important to for the National Assembly to be representative of all minorities.
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Members of the opposition parties said his comments were disrespectful to women.
“I was really troubled by the way the premier handled the whole parity issue,” said PQ deputy leader Véronique Hivon.
“Women are not a minority. They are half the population and they include the representation of all diversity and all minorities.”
Hivon continued, “I think the premier does not understand what this whole debate is about. I think that’s why we need more women in politics. This is a very good example because we have to let go of the paternalistic approach, the “mansplaining,” and I think we have to change our ways of behaving also.”
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