(Quebec) The work of the opposition has been “almost impossible” particularly during the first wave of the pandemic, largely because of the government, according to the Parti Québécois (PQ).

PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon endorses the conclusions of an academic study recently published in a specialized scientific journal and distributed by La Presse Canadienne1.

After analyzing hundreds of interventions, the researchers conclude, with both quantitative and qualitative data, that the ability of opposition parties to monitor government action has been “clearly undermined”.

In a telephone interview on Monday, the leader of the PQ said he agreed with the findings of the study.

“The confusion was complete” between the prime minister and the director of public health, who were doing their press conference together, during prime time, day after day, without the space reserved for the voices of the opposition being the less proportionate, argued Mr. St-Pierre Plamondon.

Furthermore, there was “no transparency on the scientific basis of each decision” and, as a result, this created a “very difficult environment for healthy democratic dialogue”, he continued.

In the eyes of Mr. St-Pierre Plamondon, the government has contributed to the ostracization of opposition parties for political purposes during the pandemic.

“The government has actively participated [in the climate of weakening of the opposition] not only through the use of press briefings for political purposes, to impose its version, but also online, by asking the staff of the Assembly the CAQ’s National Assembly to treat each elected member of the opposition parties as a conspirator, or to accuse them of being against science. »

In these very tense circumstances, where the media relayed points of view that were rightly very critical of disinformation and conspiracy, it was easy for the government “to associate any legitimate question or criticism with conspiracy, which made it difficult for the very difficult oppositions,” the PQ leader continued.

The Caquiste government has thus polarized opinion and thrown into the arms of certain extreme currents of citizens who nevertheless were only asking questions or expressing their skepticism, regretted Mr. St-Pierre Plamondon.

The leader of the PQ hopes that, in the absence of a commission of inquiry that he had called for on the management of the health crisis, academics will continue their research to advance knowledge and to avoid repeating the same errors during a possible crisis.

The article by the university researchers appeared in English in the scientific journal Journal of Legislative Studies.

The authors noted that due to the context, the Liberal Party (PLQ) as well as Québec solidaire (QS) and the PQ therefore renounced criticism and personal attacks and opted instead for the formulation of proposals.

They made up to almost seven times more interventions with proposals than critical interventions, compared to the level before the pandemic.

But still, it remained a minefield for the opposition parties, according to Mr. St-Pierre Plamondon.

“The mere fact of formulating proposals quickly led to accusations of being against science, of being against the solidarity of Quebecers. And these accusations came from the Prime Minister himself on several occasions. »

No less than 657 parliamentary interventions, either statements or questions, as well as 728 interventions in the media were analyzed, between January 2019 and December 2020. This thus allowed a comparison with a pre-pandemic sample, from January 2019 to March 2020.

Of the 657 interventions carried out, 163 (24.8%) were made after the declaration of the state of emergency.

Similarly, of the 728 interventions in the media, 303 (41.6%) were made after the announcement of the state of emergency.

The interventions selected were those of the spokespersons for Education, Health and Public Safety, who were the most solicited during the pandemic.

The study was carried out by Jeanne Milot-Poulin, Lydia Laflamme, Jeanne Desrosiers, Cédrik Verreault, Carolane Fillion, Nicolas Patenaude as well as Professor Marc-André Bodet.