Fifteen months into a global pandemic that has required discipline and self-isolation, Premier François Legault has declared this the summer of coming back together.
On Friday, the National Assembly adjourned for summer vacation. By the time it reconvenes in September, the Legault government is counting on 75 per cent of Quebecers 12 years and older being fully vaccinated.
“We needed a win and we had a win with vaccination,” he said during a press conference at the provincial legislature in Quebec City.
He knows there will be a psychological impact after so many months of fear, isolation and grief. He says providing mental health services to Quebecers is one of his government’s top priorities as it tries to turn the page on Covid-19.
Challenges for the CAQ government
“It will be a challenge to give services to all these people,” he said.
The premier says he is proud of how the province battled the pandemic and rolled out its vaccination campaign, but he says he believes his government will also be able to keep 90 per cent of the promises they made during the last election.
“it’s not true that we only worked on the pandemic for the last 15 months,” he said.
“I feel a bit like a duck,” he said.
“It looks quiet, but under the water, we go fast, and we advance fast,” he explained. “I think in education, in economy, in environment, in culture, we made some progress.”
Quebec Solidaire says it kept government in check
“The pandemic is not over yet, and we have to prepare for a possible fourth or even fifth wave,” said Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, who will take over as party leader from Manon Massé next session.
The Québec Solidaire (QS) MNA wants the government to spend the summer preparing for this eventuality, but to stop depending on the public health emergency law.
“It’s unthinkable that the government will again declare the total state of emergency if there is a resurgence of cases,” he said.
He also added the government needs to put a lot of effort over the summer in recruiting more staff into the health network.
“This has to be solved this summer because we won’t be able to get back to an ordinary level of care for patients, especially for surgeries, if we do not bring back the thousands of women that have left the system in the last months,” he said.
Québec Solidaire says it played an important role in keeping the government in check this session.
“If Québec Solidaire wasn’t there … Pierre Fitzgibbon would still be Minister. If Québec Solidaire wasn’t there, the ignorance of Mr. Legault regarding the housing crisis would not have be exposed in plain sight,” said Nadeau-Dubois.
The MNA for Terrebonne Pierre Fitzgibbon stepped down as economy minister last week following a damning ethics report, which was called for by Québec Solidaire’s Vincent Marissal.
In Question Period later that day, Legault lashed out at the opposition parties who called into question the premier’s tolerance of the appearance of conflicts of interest.
“I have to make sure I control my temper,” Legault recognized on Friday.
Quebec Liberals call out premier’s “arrogance”
“There was a high level of arrogance towards the opposition, but also, I think he doesn’t like facts,” said Liberal leader Dominique Anglade.
“When he doesn’t have the argument, then, he starts attacking. And I don’t think it’s the right approach. I think Quebecers deserve better,” she continued.
The premier says it’s not arrogance, but rather hotheadedness.
“I’ve got emotion, I’m human, and sometimes, it’s not easy to listen to the opposition (parties), but I have to stay calm even if they say something I don’t like,” he explained.
Legault said he will take advantage of a couple weeks of vacation to become more “zen.” He also invited all MNAs to “recharge their batteries” before the fall session when they will head into an election year.
On the election front, Anglade said the pandemic has given the CAQ government, currently high in the polls, a major advantage.
“There is no question there is a huge discrepancy between the visibility that the government has and the opposition parties,” she said. “We hope as the pandemic goes away that we are going to be able to really bring forward our proposals, having the real conversations that we need to have with Quebecers from all the regions.”
The PQ optimistic for fall session
The Parti Québécois (PQ) leader echoed Anglade’s concerns, but remained optimistic.
“For all parties, it was an issue, but it will not be an issue during the fall. We will get down to the fundamental topics that are important, such as the French language, the environment, ethics and social justice,” said Paul St-Pierre Plamondon.
Plamondon, who does not hold a seat at the National Assembly also saw his MNA’s reduced to seven. Long-time PQ MNA for Bonaventure, Sylvain Roy left the party last week to sit as an independent, citing that the trust had been broken between him and the leader.