Opposition parties are holding their pre-session caucuses this week before the Quebec National Assembly reconvenes next Tuesday. The number one priority for all political parties is repairing a health-care system devastated by COVID-19.
During his last few COVID-19 press conferences, Quebec Premier François Legault returned often to the same analogy: there was light at the end of the tunnel. At his last press conference, he announced, Quebec had emerged on the other side.
However, he said, the health-care train has been severely damaged along the way.
“Our health network needs an overhaul and the overhaul must be built around people who work in the health network,” Legault said.
Legault said bursaries have been created in nursing for anyone looking for a new career. Health Minister Christian Dubé will present a rebuilding plan next month.
Quebec Opposition parties are also working on their own plans, something that could become a ballot box issue during the fall election.
“The train was already in very bad shape when the pandemic began,” said Quebec Solidaire co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois during a press conference at the National Assembly Wednesday before a two-day pre-session caucus.
Quebec and Canada have one of the lowest hospital capacities in the world. For instance, France has more than double the number of beds available per capita.
Mehdi Ammi, an associate professor at Carleton University’s School of Public Policy and Administration, said this is something the Quebec government will need to address.
“I’m not saying that we need to have a number of beds that need to be there for a crisis situation because these beds are costly,” he explained.
“It’s more that I’m saying we are too low.”
Ammi said the government will have to equip the health network to handle future waves without compromising other treatments or delaying surgeries. Opposition parties said they hope this will be a top subject of debate when the National Assembly sits for a new session beginning next week.
“What we need to be doing right now is fixing the train,” said Nadeau-Dubois, using Legault’s analogy.
“Punishing unvaccinated Quebecers will not fix the train,” he added, referring to the government’s proposed health tax for the unvaccinated.
Quebec Solidaire and the Quebec Liberal Party say this is a distraction and an attempt to find a scapegoat.
“Not only did we have measures that were restrictive, including two curfews, but the results are not there,” said Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade.
“They have to take a part of the responsibility and instead of doing that, they came up with this idea.”
It’s an idea, Nadeau-Dubois added, that is punitive and will do nothing to create more hospital beds.
Instead, Quebec Solidaire wants the National Assembly to concentrate debate this session on distributing N95 masks in the health network and to the general population. It also wants a real debate on ventilation in schools.
“How come we are in January 2022 and we still have this same problem in our schools?” said Manon Massé, QS MNA.