By Michael Boriero – Local Journalism Initiative
The six Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) MNAs in the Eastern Townships convened in Bromont on Tuesday for the first in-person regional caucus meeting in over a year to discuss the healthcare system, school infrastructure, and the creation of daycare spaces.
Transport Minister, and Minister Responsible for the Estrie Region, François Bonnardel led the post-meeting press conference in the lobby at the Hôtel St-Martin. He explained that it was a necessary meeting used to unify their voices, and clarify their vision for the region.
According to the Granby MNA, previous governments failed to rectify the dilapidated state of many schools in the Townships. There was only $53.9 million invested in school construction between 2013 and 2018, he said, and $94.2 million in renovations.
However, since the CAQ took office, the provincial government has invested $126.7 million in construction and $150.6 million in renovations. And there are new elementary schools slated for construction in Sherbrooke, Cowansville, and Granby.
Bonnardel also noted that the CAQ caucus in the Eastern Townships has secured nearly 1,000 new spaces in 22 daycare centres across seven cities. Sherbrooke has the bulk of the availability with 719 new spaces, according to a press release.
The Partage St-François, a homeless shelter in Sherbrooke, has also become a major file for Bonnardel and his colleagues. He said that they are trying to find ways to support the volunteer workers in order to maintain the shelter’s services.
On Tuesday, Quebec Liberal Party Leader Dominique Anglade called foul on the way the CAQ has handled emergency health services in Coaticook. Anglade noted that residents no longer have access to services in the evenings and on weekends.
The Record asked Bonnardel about the festering situation in Coaticook. The problem, he explained, is the mass exodus of healthcare workers. The caucus has spoken to Dr. Stéphane Tremblay, the president and director general of the CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS.
“The employability is a problem for the CIUSSS right now, it’s a problem all over Quebec concerning healthcare and we talk to Mr. Tremblay […] each week to see what kind of situation we can do, what kind of solution we can have concerning Coaticook,” said Bonnardel.
He couldn’t provide any concrete examples to how the CAQ plans to tackle the labour shortage. But he added that the government is actively looking for solutions to attract nurses, and technicians, as well as finding ways to stop service breakdowns in Coaticook.
Before concluding the press conference, The Record also touched on the ongoing debate over Bill 96, the government’s attempt to strengthen French language laws in the
The transport minister had little to add to the current situation.
“We want to protect the French language, but respect the
minority English communities. It’s an important project that has
been tabled and we will continue to discuss this
project for the next few months,”
said Bonnardel, sharing that he isn’t at the table to review the bill.