Liberal campaign bus hits healthcare speed bump with protests
Premier Couillard promises West Quebec more healthcare services, immigrants, Route 50 & light rail
Sam C. Lab
Liberal Premier Philippe Couillard was met by protesting healthcare workers as his campaign tour reached Gatineau, September 7. With heathcare a major issue of this election, about 30 CSN health workers met the Premier at his press conference in Parc Lavictoire near (( Bon séjour )) CHSLD seniors’ care centre.
Couillard did meet with Michel Quijada, head of the healthcare workers, who pressed the premier on their situation – “understaffed, overworked and underpaid”. The Premier commented then only that “we are on the same page.” The union claims Coullard’s cuts to healthcare to reach a budget surplus has put the system in crisis.
Flanked by five local Liberal incumbent MNAs, the Premier responded in public that his government has added 1,500 CHSLD workers, as well as 2,000 in-home healthcare services, and promised to continue these improvements.
The Premier insisted that recruiting labour for Quebec’s entire economy is his party’s priority, “unlike my opponent, François Legault of the CAQ. We want to welcome immigrants, not turn them away, especially with the crisis in workers.”
The Coalition Avenir du Quebec (CAQ), which is leading in the polls, claims it will cut immigration into the province from its current 52,000 to 40,000 a year.
The Premier reiterated his government’s intention to complete the expansion of Autoroute 50 to four lanes to Mirabel, while supporting a light-rail link between Quebec and Ontario.
Coullard also paid tribute to English-speaking Quebecers, nixing xenophobia and fear; at the same time, he re-enforced concerns for the flourishing of French, in response to French-language media questions.
ReInforce French & English cultures, but not community media
Speaking exclusively to the West Quebec Post, inside his campaign bus, Mr Couillard stressed that he is speaking in English as well as French on the campaign.
However, he showed little sympathy for the problems facing community media across the province, caused in part by his government’s decision to pull its public notices, information campaigns and communiques from print media, but did say that the excessive costs of recycling charged to newspapers (up 1,300% in 8 years), which has resulted in a loss of jobs and community messaging across Quebec, “is being corrected”.
“Why does the Quebec government not advertise in newspapers anymore, sending money instead to Silicon Valley when newspapers are the most trusted media in Province?” he was asked, and he replied that the government is going with a newer business model favouring digital media.
As for other threats to Quebec’s economy – NAFTA right now – the Premier said Quebec has a final recourse mechanism. Each province must “table a motion of agreement” with Ottawa on any trade agreement with the US. He said he will not sign on unless supply management of the dairy industry and cultural questions affecting Quebec are respected.
Premier Couillard’s bus tour made a prior campaign stopover at the Wakefield Mill to support Luce Farrell, candidate for Gatineau riding. It was left vacant by retiring Justice minister Stéphanie Vallée.