François Legault is a lot of things: he’s a millionaire, he’s a baby boomer, and he is a populist. He is also one of the few premiers to not need Montreal votes in order to end up in office, and the first anti-union Premier in Quebec since the bigoted and dictatorial Maurice Duplessis. Legault’s biggest crime as premier, however, is prioritizing the financial interests of wealthy baby boomers over the lives and safety of younger generations, and nowhere is this clearer than in Legault’s back-to-school plan.

We are still very much in the throes of a fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Right before the December holidays Quebec had a massive spike in cases due to the highly infectious Omicron variant for which Montreal schools accounted for nearly half of all outbreaks.

Numbers seem to have dropped over the holidays, but this is clearly not just because cases are being underreported due to the limited ability of home testing to detect of Omicron, and insane lineups to get an in-person test due to the highly infectious nature of this variant. It’s also because the kids have not been in school.

As I write this, it is the day before elementary and high-school students are required to return to in-person schooling, a plan for which Legault and his cronies in government are utterly inflexible. (ed’s note: the snow ended up cancelling many classes that the government did not)

“I think the government is putting on the illusion of caring for the kids, but really their motivation is money,” said “A”, a mother of two whose children are expected to return like all other Quebec kids on January 17, 2022. “They want parents back at work at all costs,” she said, adding that she is “f*cking scared to send them back.”

A is not the only one afraid to send her kids back. X is a teacher and mother of three, one of whom has severe, non-verbal Down’s syndrome. She says that since public health measures have been put in place over the last two years, her daughter – whose condition makes her especially vulnerable to lung and sinus infections – has been less sick than she has ever been in her life. X would rather her special needs child not get Omicron given the lack of research into how the variant will affect her morphology.

“She catches everything,” X says, knowing that when her sons, who attend regular elementary and high schools catch anything, her daughter will most likely get sick. Unlike other kids, her daughter cannot communicate symptoms like a sore throat, so her mother would only know to get her tested if she’s alerted by her school or shows visible signs of illness.

The child’s special needs also make it harder for her to address basic self-care, such as regularly drinking fluids so she doesn’t get dehydrated. That said, if given a choice between in-person schooling and online learning, X expresses distaste for online learning given the disastrous effect it has had on her sons’ mental health.

X is one of the few to propose an alternative to online learning and in-person schooling that the Quebec government seems to have willfully avoided considering: providing parents with homeschooling materials or even giving kids a break from schooling entirely, at least until the current wave passes.

“All this back and forth? What’s the point?” she asks, referring to the constant cycle of school closures and re-openings in response to the regular outbreaks in schools doing in person learning.

Carolyn Gehr, a high school math teacher with the English Montreal School Board, has concerns of her own, pointing out that there are currently no class bubbles in place, so you can have hundreds of unmasked kids in the hallways and cafeterias over lunchtime.

“It’s a disaster waiting to happen,” she says, adding that the government’s plan to call in parents to supervise classrooms when teachers are out with COVID cheapens the teaching profession, making them seem like “nothing more than glorified babysitters,”

“A” feels that none of the government’s decisions are based on the current science regarding COVID and the Omicron variant.

“It’s not a very good idea to send them back with even less rules about isolation and contacts. I won’t know if my kids have been in contact with a positive case and they could very well bring COVID to their aging grandparents, who despite being triple vaccinated, can still get severely ill,”

It’s no coincidence that this back to school plan will primarily affect working-aged adults while many wealthy Baby Boomers have the luxury of working from home or are retiring in droves and can therefore stay home safe from Omicron.

This is the not the first time the government’s COVID plan has put Gen X and younger generations in mortal danger either. Past vaccination campaigns that prioritized people with chronic illnesses with the over 65 camp, younger people with diseases such as diabetes that put them at a higher risk of developing complications from the virus were considered a lower priority for the COVID vaccine than Baby Boomers in perfect health. This is an issue that I raised on multiple occasions in interviews with CBC Radio last year.

François Legault’s actions are not the ones of a man ‘doing his best’ as many wealthy members of his generation believe. They’re the actions of someone who doesn’t care how many young people he kills in order to keep himself and his cohort rich and comfortable.

Legault is up for re-election this October and it would be wise of younger people across in Quebec to recognize his actions as those of a man who prioritizes pocketbooks over people and elect someone who will be more responsible with the health of ALL Quebeckers instead.

Featured Image of a painting by Samantha Gold

Quebec’s first pandemic curfew lasted for a few months in early 2021, the second one will last just over two weeks. It started on New Year’s Eve and ends Monday (January 17th).

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement at a mid-afternoon press conference joined by Health Minister Christian Dubé, interim National Director of Public Health Luc Boileau and Education Minister Jean-François Roberge. The latter was there because the premier also announced that elementary and secondary schools will re-open for in-person learning on Monday with students wearing masks indoors.

Legault also said that he hopes to re-open restaurant dining areas and performance venues in the coming weeks. That is, of course, for those who can prove they are “adequately vaccinated” against COVID.

The vaccine passport, meanwhile, will be required to enter big box stores (with the exception of grocery stores and pharmacies) as of January 21st.

The premier said that experts are telling him that the Omicron variant case numbers have peaked and that hospitalizations soon will as well. He cited the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) predictions that came out today to justify loosening of some measures.

Adult Quebecers who choose not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 will soon have to pay a fee if they don’t have a medical exemption preventing them from being vaccinated.

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement in an early-afternoon press conference joined by the new Interim National Director of Public Health Dr. Luc Boileau (replacing Dr. Horacio Arruda, who resigned last night) and Health Minister Christian Dubé.

This tax or fee, which Legault described as a “health contribution” will be of a “significant” amount (and Legault doesn’t consider something in the $50-$100 range substantial). According to to the premier:

“All Quebec adults who refuse in the coming weeks to at least get a first dose, will be getting a bill.”

The premier didn’t appear to be concerned about possible legal challenges or opposition to the tax when asked by reporters, arguing instead that the roughly 90% of Quebecers who are vaccinated are “tired” of bearing the brunt for the 10% unvaccinated who make up 50% of those in the hospital with the Omicron COVID variant.

Dr. Horacio Arruda has resigned as Quebec’s National Director of Public Health. While he has held this position since 2012 under governments of different parties, he became a household name in Quebec over the past two years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Arruda had become a regular fixture on the government’s COVID briefings alongside Premier François Legault and various other government officials.

A spokesperson for the premier confirmed that Arruda had offered his resignation and Legault has accepted. CTV News reported that they had received the resignation letter and printed some parts of it:

“The recent remarks made on the credibility of our opinions and on our scientific rigor undoubtedly cause a certain erosion in the adhesion of the population…In this context, I consider it appropriate to offer you the possibility of replacing me before the end of my term of office, at least as DNSP…Do not see in this gesture as an abandonment on my part, but rather the offer of an opportunity for you to reassess the situation, after several waves [of the pandemic] and in a context in constant evolution.”

The full letter (in French) has since been shared on Twitter.

The government wouldn’t comment further on the resignation at this time but said they would address it in a press conference tomorrow (Tuesday).

As of Tuesday, January 18th, Quebecers will need to show their proof of vaccination to buy hard liquor or any product at the SAQ or cannabis from the SQDC.

Christian Dubé, Quebec’s Health Minister, made the announcement in a late morning press conference joined by vaccine program director Daniel Paré and associate deputy health minister Lucie Opatrny. He added that the same rules will apply to some “non-essential” businesses in the future, without being specific on the scope or the timeframe.

Currently, people who have received two vaccine shots and proof through an app or on a printout can enter places like bars and restaurant dining areas (when they are open), but Dubé says that the vaccine passport will soon require three doses to work. He said that the government would give people enough time to get their third shot before implementing the change.

Following the announcement, Quebec Liberal Party Leader Dominique Anglade criticized the Legault Government’s handling of the Omicron variant stage of the pandemic. While her party says it would also cut off the unvaccinated’s access to the SAQ and SQDC, Aglande tweeted (in French) “It feels like we are on a boat without a rudder and without a compass. I call upon François Legault to regain control of the management of the pandemic.”

Jason C. McLean and Special Guests Dawn McSweeney and Jerry Gabriel start with Quebec’s second curfew which begins on New Year’s Eve and then talk about some of the top news stories of 2021.

Follow Dawn McSweeney on Twitter and Instagram @mcmoxy

Follow Jerry Gabriel on Twitter (@depressingbear) and Instagram (@jerrygabrielrocks)

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter and Instagram @jasoncmclean

As of tomorrow night, December 31st, aka New Year’s Eve, Quebec will be under a 10pm to 5am curfew. Restaurant dining areas will also close and home gatherings will be banned, except when it comes to caregivers and people who live alone.

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement at an early evening press conference joined by National Director of Public Health Dr. Horacio Arruda and Christian Dubé, the Minister of Health and Social Services.

The premier added that places of worship must close, with the exception of funerals which will be limited to 25 people. Stores, including grocery stores, must close for the next three Sundays except for pharmacies, gas stations and dépanneurs.

Legault admitted that the hospitalization rate for the Omicron COVID-19 variant weren’t as high as other variants such as Delta but said that the record-breaking spread means caution necessitates measures like this. He added that the curfew is necessary because “a minority of people” won’t respect the rules and a curfew just for the unvaccinated would be too hard to enforce.

While the Quebec Government is still allowing home gatherings up to ten people for Christmas, that number drops to six people, or two home bubbles, on Sunday, December 26th. On that same date, restaurants need to only allow six people or two family bubbles sit at the same table.

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement at an early evening press conference alongside Christian Dubé, the Minister of Health and Social Services, and National Director of Public Health Dr. Horacio Arruda.

Legault added that while Christmas parties of up to ten people are allowed, he encourages everyone to cancel them if possible and to only go to one (on either the 24th or the 25th). He also said that people over 60 who haven’t received their third vaccine dose are the most vulnerable and should take the most precautions (two meters, open windows, etc.) if going out.

Dubé also said that while cases are skyrocketing (the reason for these measures and the others announced on Monday), they are monitoring the situation in hospitals closely to see if the predictions they received that hospitalizations will increase proportionally come true or if they don’t, as in some other areas with similar vaccination rates.

Legault stressed the importance of vaccination and also testing, but Arruda reminded people that the PCR tests are prioritized for symptomatic people.

While the restrictions announced today weren’t as severe as some were suspecting, the government isn’t ruling out adding more measures.

As of Monday, businesses in Quebec, including stores, restaurants, cinemas, and bars, will once again be limited to 50% capacity. Private gatherings will also be limited to ten people, including for the holidays.

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement at an early evening press conference and cited the increased spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, claiming that experts have told him hospitalizations will increase unless contact is limited.

Mask wearing will be required in schools again. After the holidays, primary schools will re-open when planned, but high schools will be remote until January 10th.

Office Christmas parties, karaoke and dancing will also be banned as of Monday.

Jason C. McLean and Special Guest Dawn McSweeney discuss some of the big news stories of the week including the first person sent home because of Bill 21, a subreddit thwarting Kellogg’s plans to hire scab workers and more. Plus a Legault rant!

Follow Dawn McSweeney on Twitter and Instagram @mcmoxy

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter and Instagram @jasoncmclean

The John Oliver video mentioned

Yesterday, Montreal, Laval, and the remaining Red Zones in Quebec turned Orange. Today, Quebec Premier François Legault announced that as of next Monday (June 14th), all of Quebec’s Orange Zones will become Yellow Zones.

The Premier made the announcement at an early afternoon press conference joined by Christian Dubé, Minister of Health and Social Services, and National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda. He added that the one region of concern that may not turn Yellow is Chaudière-Appalaches.

So what does being in a Yellow Zone mean? Well:

  • Indoor home visits are permitted for maximum two households
  • Outdoor home visits (backyards and balconies) are permitted for a maximum of eight people
  • Bars can re-open until midnight at 50% capacity with customers remaining seated, no more than two households per table (as well as other restrictions). Bar terrasses are already scheduled to re-open province-wide this Friday
  • Indoor recreation is permitted with certain restrictions
  • Travel between regions and cities is not recommended, but permitted

A full list of what being in a Yellow Zone means, including rules for auditoriums, funerals and places of worship as well as more detailed bar and recreation rules can be found on Quebec’s COVID-19 website.

The next stage down and the best stage to be at (aside from “pandemic over”) is the Green Zone, a status currently only enjoyed by Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Côte-Nord, Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine and Nord-du-Québec. As it may be in everyone else’s future, here’s what it means:

  • Indoor and outdoor (backyards and balconies) home visits are permitted for a maximum of ten people from different addresses or the occupants of three households
  • Bars are open with a maximum of three residences or ten people sharing the same table. The other restrictions are the same as in Yellow Zones
  • Travel between regions and cities is possible

A full list of what being in a Green Zone means is available on Quebec’s COVID-19 website.

Legault also said that students graduating can have their proms, albeit outside and for a maximum of 250 people.

People in Montreal and Laval will have to wait a bit longer to dine indoors in a restaurant. While most of Quebec will be Orange Zones as of May 31st, Montreal and Laval, as well as a few small pockets of other regions, will remain Red Zones for an extra week until June 7th.

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement in a late afternoon press conference joined by Christian Dubé, Minister of Health and Social Services, and National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda. Arruda added that the government had planned on moving the whole province to Orange at the same time, but after speaking with local public health officials, decided to be a bit more cautious and wait the extra week.

Meanwhile, the curfew will still be lifted for everyone across Quebec this Friday and dining on restaurant terrasses will be permitted. Quebec’s overall re-opening plan announced last week is heading forward, only slightly altered.

In addition to indoor dining, people in Orange Zones can go to the gym and elementary and high school students return to in-person classes.

Meanwhile Dubé added that the province is hoping to make people’s second COVID-19 vaccine appointments earlier than scheduled. An announcement on this is expected next week.

Quebec’s curfew will be lifted in all regions next Friday, May 28th. Restaurant terrasses will also be allowed to re-open, home backyard visits of up to eight people will be permitted along with travel between regions and stadiums can receive up to 2500 people, all as of that date.

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement in a late afternoon press conference joined by Christian Dubé, Minister of Health and Social Services, and National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda. He said that this was the first in four major steps of deconfinement affecting the province as a whole, regardless of region.

The second step will be allowing bar terrasses to re-open on June 11. The third will be on June 25th when people who have received both of their vaccine doses will be permitted to visit other people’s homes indoors without masks or social distancing and festivals can occur, regardless of if they have assigned seating or not. The fourth step will be the end of August when most indoor mask mandates will be lifted.

Region-Specific Deconfinement

The premier also announced a series of expected regional coding switches:

  • Most regions will remain or become Orange Zones on May 31st. This means restaurants can re-open for indoor dining.
  • Most regions will remain or become Yellow Zones by June 14th the latest. This means bars can re-open and people can visit other people’s homes.
  • Most regions will become Green Zones by June 28th. This means up to ten people coming from three residences can gather in homes.

Legault also said that Elementary and High Schools in most regions will re-open (or stay open) for in-person classes this coming Monday, May 24th. CEGEPs and universities are expected to re-open for in-person classes as part of the late August deconfinement.

Deconfinement Follows Vaccinations

These measures are closely tied to Quebec’s vaccination rollout, which Legault says is going better than expected. The government had originally predicted that 75% of the population will have received their first vaccine shot by June 24th, now Legault expects to hit that milestone by June 15th.

75% of the population are expected to have received both vaccine doses by the end of August, which is when most confinement measures are scheduled to be lifted.

François Legault has shoehorned his foot into his mouth, yet again. Last week it was his claim – in response to the growing affordable housing crisis – that the average rent in metropolitan areas in Quebec was $500-$600 a month. This week, it’s his inflexibility on pay raises for public sector workers.

In Quebec, we have an expression “Au Quebec, on syndique!” in other words, “In Quebec we unionize”. We are also in a pandemic where the gap between rich and poor is clearer than ever, and the definition of who counts as an essential worker is all the more obvious as a result.

It therefore came as a slap in the face to those same workers that Legault told government worker unions there is no money left to pay for pay raises. The Quebec government’s current offer to healthcare workers – called “guardian angels” by Legault – is a five percent pay raise over five years with an option for a further three percent if inflation exceeds the amount they’re offering. Higher pay raises are being offered to patient attendants in long-term care homes and first year teachers in an attempt to lure more people to these professions that are facing severe staffing shortages in Quebec.

The unions have said government offers are too little to accept, and Legault’s response is to cite pandemic-related public spending as grounds for the claim that his government cannot offer them more. In an age where unions are more important than ever in the face of mounting corporate greed, his remarks come as particularly insulting when he himself owns a multimillion dollar home in Outremont.

Since Legault’s callous remarks around residential renting costs, his government and the Coaltion Avenir du Quebec has been engaging in damage control. This can be seen in the Premier’s conspicuous absence from the press conference announcing the expansion of eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Every time Legault goes public on financial matters, his wealth and privilege shine through. This is a man who claims that he will do what the majority of Quebeckers want, yet his responses to issues surrounding poverty and people’s value stinks of the arrogance that comes with extreme wealth.

While I have zero interest in saving the Quebec premier’s reputation, I do have a suggestion of how Francois Legault and his party can save his ass from political blunders that have finally alienated their base:

Francois Legault should take a pay cut.

He should accept a reduction in his salary as premier and that amount should go straight into an offer of increased salaries for essential workers. A simple Google search reveals that Legault’s approximate net worth is about ten million dollars, so he clearly doesn’t need the money.

He wants to be a man of the people? He needs to prove it, and he needs to do it now!

Now I could bring up that since Quebec is already facing teaching shortages, suspending Bill 21 would be a fantastic way to attract more staff, but that’s not what this article is about. It’s about the population of Quebec facing mounting financial strain due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s about nurses, nurses’ aides, and other front line workers fed up with a rich man telling them what they can and cannot afford when they put themselves at risk of contracting the virus while he remains in safety. It’s about the fact that while homelessness is on the rise and buying a home is so far out of reach for most people, he owns a multimillion dollar home.

That said, I believe I speak on behalf of everyone in Quebec when I make this challenge to our illustrious premier:

Are you truly a man of the people? Prove it, Monsieur Legault, take a pay cut.

Special Guest Samantha Gold talks about getting vaccinated against COVID-19 in Quebec, Premier François Legault’s comments on Montreal rental prices and more with host Jason C. McLean

Follow Samantha Gold on Facebook @samiamart & Instagram @samiamartistmtl

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter @jasoncmclean

Book your Quebec vaccine appointment through Clic Santé according to the schedule

Quebec’s curfew will once again run from 9:30pm to 5am as of next Monday, May 3rd in Montreal and Laval. The government had pushed it back to 8pm on April 8th out of fear that COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations would spike here as they did in other regions. The infection rate instead went down.

The Outaouais region will remain on the strictest set of restrictions for another week. In the Quebec City region, a recently hard-hit area that is doing better, will see primary schools re-open, but other restrictions, including the 8pm curfew, stay in place. The rest of the province will remain where they are, restriction-wise.

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement in an early afternoon press conference joined by Christian Dubé, Minister of Health and Social Services, and National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda. Arruda also noted that a Quebecer who received the AstraZeneca vaccine has died of thrombosis, making her the first Canadian to die as a result of complications from the vaccine.

Legault and Arruda emphasized, though, that cases like this are extremely rare and overall the vaccination rollout is going very well. Legault said that we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel but don’t want to be hit by the train on our way out, which he equated to the third wave.