'Power is exhilarating': PQ's Joel Arseneau calls for an end to state of emergency

The Parti Quebecois held its pre-session caucus this week, as it gets ready to challenge the governing CAQ Legault government when the National Assembly opens Sept. 14. (SOURCE: @partiquebecois/Twitter)

The Parti Québécois made a final appeal to the Legault government to end its state of emergency prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"If we must learn to live with the virus, as the premier says, we must also learn to make the National Assembly work with the virus," the PQ claims.

In a news briefing on the second day of the PQ's pre-session caucus meeting, the third opposition party challenged the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government to respect its word and its commitment made when it adopted a motion last May to end the state of emergency.

New PQ parliamentary leader Joël Arsenau said that Minister of Health and Social Services Christian Dubé had himself stated that we would have to learn to live with the virus, a statement endorsed by Premier François Legault who repeated it.

In Arseneau's opinion, there is no longer any need to make decisions in an emergency and it is, therefore, necessary to restore the powers that belong to the institutions, starting with the National Assembly.

Currently, thanks to the Public Health Act, the government has extraordinary powers to make all sorts of decisions without having to consult the National Assembly.

"Power is exhilarating," he warned. "It is obvious that the government has become accustomed to governing in such a way as to decide without any debate and with a small group around the premier."

Arsenau said, "Quebec suffers from a deficit of transparency," and that it "harms the adhesion to the health measures" within the population.

"What is worrying is when we hear the premier say that having a debate on mandatory vaccination is dangerous. We must not put aside democratic debate. On the contrary, we must invite civil society to participate in it," said the MNA for the Magdalen Islands.

He believes that the next few weeks will allow Quebecers to see if Premier Legault is acting in good faith or if he is "abusing the power vested in him by the Public Health Act."

If the government is stubborn, Arseneau said the pressure could come from the public.

As an example, he brought up the recent decision to impose vaccination on health-care workers against the advice of many stakeholders heard in parliamentary committee. If time proves them right and the minister has ignored them, he could pay the price, Arsenau said.

"This is a government that relies on polls," he said. "It's been a hellish summer in most hospitals and emergency rooms. If people see that the government's decision was ill-advised, because the disadvantages were not weighed against the advantages, I think that will shake the government."

Ces deux derniers jours le #PQ était à la Malbaie afin de préparer la reprise des travaux à l’#Assnat.

Restez à l’affût: nous vous réservons un «automne climatique» mettant de l’avant une multitude de propositions à la hauteur du défi planétaire auquel nous faisons face!��#Polqc pic.twitter.com/3kTXxz5KG1

— Parti Québécois (@partiquebecois) September 8, 2021

Six of the seven Parti Québécois MNAs (with the exception of Lorraine Richard) were gathered in a pre-session caucus at the Manoir Richelieu in La Malbaie with their unelected leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon. Parliament is scheduled to reconvene in Quebec City on Sept. 14.

Arseneau will have the task of organizing the work of the caucus and questioning the premier in the Salon bleu while waiting for St-Pierre Plamondon to enter the National Assembly.

The MNA for the Magdalen Islands will take over from his colleague from Matane-Matapédia, Pascal Bérubé, who held the fort since Jean-François Lisée left in October 2018.

On Tuesday, leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon announced that his party would push forward its "climate fall" campaign by deploying various initiatives, including the introduction of bills, to force the government to do more on the environment.

The PQ also wants to put pressure on Environment and Climate Change Minister Benoit Charette to come up with more ambitious commitments at the next United Nations climate conference, COP26, scheduled for November in Scotland.

-- This report was first published in French on Sept. 8, 2021. 

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