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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Papa Legault

BY Lyle Stewart Dec 23, 2021

Quebec Premier François Legault’s press conference December 22 was an exercise in hubris and futility. When political leaders command the airwaves at 6 pm, cutting into supper-hour news programs, it is because they have something major to announce.

The day before his press conference, Legault raised this anticipation by tweeting, in part, “Quebec is confronted with very difficult choices…. We will get back to you to tomorrow with our decisions.”

Instead, all we heard was the squiff sound of air farting from a balloon. At a moment Quebec is approaching 10,000 new Covid cases per day (which may be far more by the time you read this), the only concrete measure Legault announced was that the allowable number of people at family gatherings would decrease from 10 to six the day after Christmas. Earth-shattering news, that.

It’s pure improvisation. Remember that Legault had announced only two weeks previously – even as new infections were around 1,000 a day, five times the number when he locked down the province last year – that 20 people would be allowed at family gatherings over Christmas. Then he rescinded that order. Now he reduces it to six. “Very difficult choices.” Hmm…

We are tired of being a yo-yo in François Legault’s political vaudeville act. Consistency, a well-resourced healthcare system and honesty would be far preferable. Legault’s management of the healthcare system has been lackadaisical. Almost two years into the pandemic, we are still facing shortages of essential medical resources to confront this health emergency.

Most accept the need for measures to reduce the risk of transmission. Masks, disinfecting hands, social distancing and above all, getting vaccinated, are embraced by the vast majority of Quebecers. In fact, the only meaningful information we heard at Legault’s press conference was that fully half of the people taking up hospital beds with Covid illnesses are from the 6% of adults in the province who are unvaccinated.

Legault had no measures to announce about how he would encourage or force that minority to stop doing immense harm to our society. Indeed, the people who eat up anti-vaccine disinformation on the internet are most likely to support populist, right-wing parties such as his inaccurately named Coalition Avenir Québec.

As we have seen, the CAQ is about backwardness, taking people back to a time when father knew best, even if it was transparently obvious that he was faking it. As Papa Legault is doing now.

The empty political theatre on December 22 was about trying to pretend our dear leader is in charge. And is taking the situation very, very seriously. That’s the hubris part, the pride that kills… too many of us (11,600 and counting). The cover-up of his government’s absolute failure to address the catastrophe in CHSLDs in 2020 is part of the same need. 

Instead, his priority is to ensure that no qualified woman should be allowed to wear a scarf over her hair when teaching in an elementary school. Don’t look at the thousands of dead people on my watch, folks. Those otherwise excellent teachers wearing a hijab are the biggest threat to Quebec.

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Lyle Stewart has been working as a journalist for over 30 years. He believes that information is the ultimate check on the abuse of power and that independent media outlets such as the Nation are crucial to democratic governance.