Quebec opposition leader says 'intuition, not science' is leading pandemic policy

·3 min read
Quebec opposition leader says 'intuition, not science' is leading pandemic policy

The leader of Quebec's official opposition is calling for an emergency sitting of the National Assembly so the government can answer for its recent handling of the pandemic.

Dominique Anglade, who leads Quebec's Liberal Party, wrote to Premier François Legault Thursday, saying the debate can't wait until February, when the National Assembly is set to return from break.

"Bottom line, the situation is really problematic," she told CBC Montreal's Daybreak. "The communication this week has been extremely confusing. We've heard different messages."

Anglade pointed to the government's changing stances on isolation in daycares and testing protocols as examples of the muddled messaging.

"All those things are telling us there's no captain. We don't know where we're headed and we haven't seen Premier Legault," she said.

In a statement, the premier's spokesman Ewan Sauves said they would not consider bringing politicians back to work early, saying it's "counterintuitive" in light of the fifth wave.

"We're asking Quebecers to avoid social contacts, to stay home and telework. That's what's recommended by Public Health," he wrote. "The National Assembly and the government must lead by example."

But Anglade says that leadership is lacking.

"People don't know anymore what they should be doing. The government has a responsibility to clarify the situation for the population, but also to provide the plan," Anglade said. "What is their plan for the next few weeks?"

WATCH | Government decisions based on polls and intuition, not science, Anglade says:

Government not being led by science, says opposition

Quebec has been operating under a state of emergency since the beginning of the pandemic, granting the government wide-ranging powers. Opposition parties, including the Liberals, questioned last summer when the government would allow those powers to expire.

Anglade said there's a point at which the Legault administration has to be held accountable.

"The reality is the government was the worst government in the country to manage the first wave, and it's still the case in the fifth wave. So what have we learned?" she asked.

She criticized the government for "polling every single week, polling to see what's popular, what's not popular" instead of following the science to form policy.

"When we heard the premier saying in mid-December that he was going to increase the number of people for parties in December up to 20, because he was hoping, he was feeling, I mean ... these are decisions based on his intuition, not based on science," she said. "And it got us to where we got today."

Questions about testing, vaccination

Anglade said she wants to hear from the government about its strategy for rapid testing — including how many tests Quebec can expect, and how they could be rolled out more broadly.

Anglade said she wants to see a strategy for rapid tests to be deployed "everywhere," not only in homes. She said rapid tests should be available in CEGEPs and universities, for example.

"The only thing that is saving us right now is the strategy around rapid testing," she said, referring to how PCR tests are no longer available to the general public.

She said the government should have started using and relying on rapid tests earlier in the pandemic.

She also said some jurisdictions are rolling out fourth doses, and said she wants to know how Quebec is going to catch up. She said she also wants to hear from the government on ventilation in schools.

When asked about the curfew, which was imposed by Legault's government on New Year's Eve, Anglade said she understands that Quebecers need to reduce their social contacts.

"The problem is: why are we at this stage? And is there scientific evidence?" she asked.

As for recent calls for Dr. Horacio Arruda to be removed as the director of public health, Anglade punted the blame back to the premier.

"Legault made the decision to handle the pandemic this way," she said. "I think that François Legault is the one that has to answer [for it] at this point."

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