Quebec opposition leader calls for Jean-Francois Roberge's resignation

Quebec Liberal leader Dominique Anglade (left) is calling for Minister of Education Jean-Francois Roberge (right) to resign after false claims about CO2 monitoring in schools. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Quebec official opposition leader Dominique Anglade is calling for the resignation of Jean-Francois Roberge as minister of education.

The Liberal leader believes Roberge lied to Quebecers when he falsely claimed to have public health validation for CO2 testing in schools.

Roberge and the Ministry of Education have repeatedly claimed that public health has validated their method for sampling air quality in classrooms.

However, there was never any approval, Radio-Canada reported Thursday.

The minister also claimed that the protocol had been developed with public health, which is not true, according to the public broadcaster.

"The minister lied about the public notices regarding CO2 testing in schools," Anglade said Thursday in a news briefing at the National Assembly. "I believe that the minister has really just signed his letter of resignation and that he must leave his post, full stop."

Quebec Solidaire (QS) co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois also believes that Roberge lied "to the families, to the public and to parliamentarians."

"The cat is out of the bag," he said. "What Jean-Francois Roberge has done is very serious. He used public health as a cover for his own negligence in the air quality file."

Nadeau-Dubois did not call for the minister's resignation.

Instead, he asked the government to "correct this mistake" by adopting a QS motion requiring the installation of CO2 detectors in all Quebec classrooms.

"Roberge can resign if he wants, he can keep his job, he can take the weekend to think about it or a sabbatical, I don't mind," said Nadeau-Dubois. "What I want is that the air our children breathe does not give them COVID."

 During question period on Thursday, Legault defended his minister, who was absent from the Blue Room.

He reiterated his confidence in him and tabled in the House a document on the protocol for ventilation in schools.

"All the public health recommendations have been integrated in the document," he said.

TOUGH WEEK FOR THE CAQ

The Parti Québécois (PQ) said it is surprised that the premier continues to defend not only Roberge, but also Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon.

PQ parliamentary leader Pascal Bérubé recalled that other ministers had lost their positions "because they were less adept, it would seem, at communication."

"But for ethical issues and issues as important as the public health of young people, they are protected by the premier," he said.

According to the PQ, Fitzgibbon, whose personal assets are at the heart of a fourth investigation by the Ethics Commissioner, is "clearly" receiving preferential treatment.

"Ethics rules are not optional based on who the premier thinks is performing or not performing. They are not optional depending on how close you are to the premier," said PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon.

On Thursday, QS co-spokesperson Manon Massé demanded that the premier expel Fitzgibbon from his cabinet. The day before, Anglade had also called for his resignation.

Meantime, this week MNA Louis-Charles Thouin withdrew from the Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) caucus, as he is under investigation by the Ethics Commissioner and the Unité permanente anticorruption (UPAC).

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2021. 

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