Are the anglo media stirring COVID fears? Legault seems to think so

legault

by Richard Deschamps, CJAD 800, and Selena Ross, CTV Montreal

A new poll shows that English speakers in Quebec are significantly more worried about COVID-19 than French speakers, and are almost twice as likely to wear a mask.

English speakers, as a whole, also feel much less comfortable with Premier François Legault’s proposed schedule for reopening the province’s economy and schools, the poll found.

Faced with these numbers on Wednesday, Legault lashed out at English-language media, saying at a press conference that the Montreal Gazette in particular “has a certain responsibility.”

The web survey, carried out by Léger Marketing and commissioned by the Quebec Community Groups Network and the Association for Canadian Studies, asked Quebecers to answer a series of questions about their feelings and experiences so far during the pandemic — and COVID fears ran higher among non-francophones on just about every count.

68 per cent of anglos said they were very afraid or somewhat afraid of getting the virus, compared with 47 per cent of francophones.

Meanwhile, 76 percent of anglos said they were afraid an immediate family member might get infected, compared with 59 per cent of francophones.

45 per cent of anglos said they had worn a mask done so in the week prior to the poll, versus 24 per cent of francophones.

47 per cent of anglos wanted Legault to slow down the pace of reopening the province, compared with 31 per cent of francophones.

And when asked whether they were satisfied with the CAQ government's response to the crisis, 74 per cent of anglos said yes, while a whopping 91 per cent of francophones did.

'Not his finest hour'

During his daily news briefing Wednesday, a CTV reporter asked Legault about whether, given the difference of opinion, his message was getting through to both language groups.

"I think the journalists, you have a responsibility," the premier answered. "It's a question of information, so I'm trying to do my best in French and in English, so I don't see why the result is not the same for francophones and anglophones. I guess maybe the Gazette has a certain responsibility."

He also referred to the Montreal Gazette's health reporter "who's on Twitter 25 times a day", adding "sometimes, I really disagree with him". 

The reporter in question, Aaron Derfel, has been publishing daily detailed data on the pandemic, often along with harsh criticism of the Legault government’s plans to reopen schools and businesses.

Speaking on CJAD 800's Aaron Rand Show on Wednesday, Derfel said that he was "shocked and a bit embarrassed" when he heard Legault utter his name, and suggests the premier didn't exactly choose his words carefully in answering the question.

"This was not his finest hour," Derfel said. "He's under tremendous stress and pressure. You could see it in his face. You have those moments where we say things that we regret, and I think he'll come to regret that."

The head of the Association of Canadian Studies, Jack Jedwab, has suggested that part of the reason for the concern among anglophones is that most of them live in Montreal, the current epicentre of the crisis, while the francophones surveyed were more spread out across the province, including some places where COVID-19 is much less of a factor.

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