#NewsMatters: The National Assembly Report
Premier calls for patience as pressure grows to reopen economy
The journalist was skillful to disguise any hint of desperation in her voice, but the question spoke for itself. “If we did everything right, why are we still in this so deeply?” she asked Premier François Legault at his press conference last Thursday.
Quebec had just announced that it would not be relaxing current health measures in the immediate future because people are still dying.
“It is my duty is to be responsible, to protect the lives of Quebecers, so let’s be careful, let’s be patient. Think of the staff in our hospitals. We will eventually get out of this together,” Legault said.
Why are things so dire?
The premier said he knows how fed-up people are and praised Quebecers for their solidarity. Hence, the burning question: if Quebecers have done everything that has been asked of them over two years of this global health crisis, why then are things still so dire?
The restrictive measures currently in place are imperative to protect Quebec hospitals from breaking apart at the seams as they continue to be over capacity, especially in ICUs.
“I cannot compare really with what’s happening in other provinces and states, but we know that right now the situation (in Quebec) is really tight,” the premier said. “We want to be able to continue to treat everybody and not delay important and urgent treatments.”
The premier acknowledged, however, the pressure he was under to reopen certain parts of the economy.
Opposition cites “devastating impact”
Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade called for the province to allow children and teens to participate in sports again, citing the “devastating impact” the current situation is having on the mental health of young Quebecers. This plea was echoed again Friday by Quebec Solidaire’s Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois during a meeting between the premier and some opposition leaders. Anglade opted out of the meeting after declaring earlier in the week that the CAQ government had lost control of the pandemic.
Quebec is also hearing from bar and restaurant owners who remain closed with no timeline for reopening. To add insult to injury, neighbouring Ontario announced it would allow these establishments to reopen at 50 per cent capacity at the end of the month.
“Please help us!” was how one Montreal bar owner summed up his desperation Friday.
Martin Guimond, the owner of Le Saint-Bock in downtown Montreal said he is only $25,000 away from bankruptcy and still has rent and municipal taxes to pay.
Morale at a low
Quebecers’ morale is at a low, but the premier tried to remain optimistic, declaring that Quebec has now reached the peak of the fifth wave in terms of the number of hospitalizations and things should be improving soon. Twelve thousand health care workers are still missing from the system, mostly due to being sick with COVID-19 themselves, but Legault hopes many of them will return to work this week.
“So Plan B to reduce services will not be necessary,” Legault said, referring to a contingency plan made public earlier in the week in the event hospitalizations continued to rise. “It was responsible to have a Plan B, but I want to be very clear, this Plan B has never been applied.”
The province also announced a plan to reach out to the 565,000 unvaccinated adults in the province.
Junior health minister Lionel Carmant will be announcing the details this week. The government is particularly concerned about vulnerable populations, including immigrants who do not speak either French or English, who may have fallen through the cracks.
“We are making an extra effort to give the maximum number of chances to those who did not receive the information,” said health minister Christian Dubé.
It’s also a last effort to give another chance to the health network to handle this latest wave that can only be fought by once again putting the economy on pause.
Raquel Fletcher is QCNA's News Matters columnist on provincial affairs