Francois Legault describes the behaviour of the opposition parties as odious

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Premier François Legault described the behaviour of the opposition parties towards Marguerite Blais and Danielle McCann as odious and believes that his political opponents used the announcement of the departure of the two ministers in preparation for Monday's by-election.

On election day in the Montérégie riding of Marie-Victorin, Premier Legault visited students and distributed Easter chocolates at a school in the east end of Montreal.

At a media scrum, he criticized the opposition parties for attacking the two CAQ ministers who announced this week that they would not run in October's election.

"Frankly, Danielle McCann, then Marguerite Blais have done everything possible to be done at the beginning of the first wave and I find it sad that we are playing politics because there is a by-election today. I find it odious to make comments like that," the premier said.

"It's no coincidence that last week, there was some mudslinging. I saw on the weekend that Dominique Anglade, who I've known for a long time, she said to go vote in Marie-Victorin because I tell lies. Listen, we are really in the sewers."

Blais and McCann are at the centre of a controversy as information continues to filter out about the tragedy that occurred in the long-term care homes (CHSLDs) in the spring of 2020.

Quebecers learned that the ministers were aware of the problems at the CHSLD Maison Herron 10 days before a shock report was published on April 10, 2020, that reported 31 deaths at the facility.

Blais, who is the minister responsible for seniors, and McCann, the former minister of health, have always maintained that they were not aware of the extent of the crisis at Herron until April 10, 2020.

The Parti Quebecois (PQ) called for the immediate departure of the ministers, saying that Quebec was experiencing its own "Watergate".

The PQ, the Liberal Party and Quebec Solidaire also called for a public and independent inquiry into the management of the pandemic.

On Monday morning, the premier was asked what he knew about the Herron residence as of March 30, 2020.

"Look, every morning, we were doing the rounds of the CHSLDs, so we knew that there were CHSLDs that were understaffed," he said. "But in the case of the CHSLD Herron, we had information on March 30, to the effect that the CIUSSS was taking care of it, so it would send employees to fill the staff shortage at the CHSLD Herron, so, obviously, we, we accepted this information."

He added that there is "an investigation currently from the coroner to see exactly what is the information between the CHSLD, then the CIUSSS."

He also said that at the time "there was a lack of staff in many CHSLDs, so we were dealing with several CHSLDs at the same time."

The premier reiterated that a public inquiry, as requested by the opposition parties, is not necessary and that the coroner's inquest into the matter is sufficient.

PREMIER DEFENDS INFORMATION LEAK

Legault also defended himself from having leaked information about the upcoming departure of Blais and McCann, even before the ministers could announce it themselves.

"I can assure you that it is not anyone in my entourage who leaked this information. I have known for some time that Danielle and Marguerite are not actually running. I would have preferred that they announce it to their constituents first and I find this leak unfortunate," he said.

On Friday, McCann confirmed her departure on social media.

"I would have liked to announce it to the citizens of my riding first, but I will not be running again," she wrote. Later in the day, Blais followed her colleague's lead.

The information was first published in the Journal de Montréal and the PQ parliamentary leader, Joël Arseneau, said that the timing of these departures was not trivial, but rather a "trick" and a "sleight of hand" to "lower the pressure" after a particularly difficult week.

BY-ELECTION TEST FOR THE PQ

The by-election in the riding of Marie-Victorin is aimed at finding a successor to MNA Catherine Fournier, who successfully ran for mayor of Longueuil last fall.

Legault said his party's goal is to get a higher percentage of votes cast than in the general election four years ago and that the pressure is on the PQ.

"This is a test for the Parti Quebecois because it is a riding that has been in the Parti Quebecois for several years," said the premier, adding that if his party does better than the 28 per cent of votes obtained in 2018, "it technically means that it looks good for the general election" to be held in the fall.

Elections Quebec authorized 12 candidates for the by-election in Marie-Victorin, which has been a Parti Quebecois stronghold since 1980.

The Liberal Party has only won once, in 1984, in a by-election, and that was only for one year.

A total of 45,558 voters are invited to the polls.

-- This report was first published in French on April 11, 2022. 

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