A check in with the region’s ­p­­rovincial politicians

By Gordon Lambie

Nearly every day for the last three weeks, Quebec Premier Francois Legault has been making regular announcements to the population of the province regarding new updates and reminders in the era of COVID-19. In the midst of all of this, though less in the spotlight, local members of the National Assembly have been at work in their ridings, in many cases working out of their own homes on a part-time or nearly full-time basis.
“The message is clearly that we need the MNAs to be on the ground, working for their constituents, their businesses, their organizations,” said Isabelle Charest in Brome-Missisquoi.
“It is in the community that we can really take action.”
Although Charest’s riding offices are closed and mainly unstaffed, the she told The Record that telephone and email services remain completely accessible to the staff working from home.
“Our role to be close to our constituents has not changed, in fact it is even more important,” noted Geneviève Hébert, Charest’s colleague in the Saint-François riding, describing the work of the local representatives as being to reassure the population, particularly when it comes to issues of revenue and food security.
André Bachand, who represents the Richmond-Arthabaska riding, said that as time goes on, the concerns coming in from the community are starting to increase.
“In the beginning it was almost like a vacation, but now the financial aspect is coming into play,” he said.
In speaking with The Record, Charest, Hébert, Bachand, and Sherbrooke MNA Christine Labrie all said that the same kinds of concerns are being voiced pretty unanimously across all regions, with people concerned about food and health security, and also financial stability in an increasingly uncertain time.
Speaking as the only voice from an opposition party in the region, Labrie said that she sees her role at this time as being one of making sure nobody falls through the cracks of government support.
“We are trying to help with the types of situations that are not covered by aid at this point,” she said, explaining that while there is a good spirit of cooperation in place among the different parties at this time, opposition politicians play an important role in ensuring all voices are heard. “The proposals we are making are to improve the measures taken in the spirit of cooperation and constructive criticism,” she added. “but the goal is to solve problems as quickly as possible.”
Charest agreed that people are getting along well right now across party lines.
“This situation goes beyond partisanship, it is a group effort,” she said, noting that it would be frustrating for someone to push a political agenda during a state of emergency.
In terms of action being taken at the moment, Charest, Hébert, Bachand and MNA Orford Gilles Bélanger all spoke of a government initiative granting leave to the politicians to use any leftover budget for the year as a donation for local food banks while also drawing on next year’s budget up to a total of $10,000. Hébert mentioned that she used the new program to make donations to the Cornerstone foodbank, Moisson Estrie, The Knights of Colombus in Saint-Elie, and the Centre d’Action Benevole (CAB) in Coaticook while Bélanger supported the Banque alimentaire Memphrémagog, the The Knights of Colombus, and the Magog, Stanstead and Missisquoi-North CABs.

See full story in the Friday, April 3 edition of The Record.

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