In a rare display of internal dissent within Canada’s ruling Liberal Party, Liberal MP Joël Lightbound, at a press conference, blasted his government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the government’s pandemic response has become “politicised” and “divisive,” and he’s not alone.
Lightbound is the representative for the Louis-Hebert riding in Quebec City.
“I’ve heard from a lot of people wondering why just a year ago, we were all united, all in this together. Now that we have one of the most vaccinated populations in the world, we’ve never been so divided,” Lightbound said.
Lightbound’s press conference was held at the same time as a federal cabinet meeting was scheduled and a day following an emergency parliament debate on the Freedom Convoy trucker protests raging on parliament hill and across the country.
“I can’t help but notice with regret that both the tone and the policies of my government have changed drastically since the last election campaign. It went from a more positive approach to one that stigmatizes and divides people,” Lightbound said.
The MP said that the Liberal government’s decision to focus on vaccines as a strategy to guide the population through the pandemic risks undermining trust in the country’s public health institutions.
“It’s becoming harder and harder to know when public health stops and where politics begins. It’s time to stop dividing Canadians and pitting one part of the population against another,” he said.
Following his press conference Lightbound resigned his position as the Quebec caucus chair over what he called “disagreements with government policy.” He will remain as the Liberal MP for the Louis-Hebert riding.
Three-term Quebec Liberal MP, Yves Robillard, has also come out saying he agrees with fellow Quebec MP, Joël Lightbound.
In an interview with the Hill Times, Robillard said, “He [Lightbound] said exactly what a lot of us are thinking.”
Robillard said he had a conversation with Lightbound early on Feb. 9 and expressed his support for Lightbound’s direction. Going forward Robillard said he would work with Lightbound.
Meanwhile, Trudeau appears to be doubling down on his approach to the pandemic saying, “Quite frankly it’s worked. We have seen the curves lower in Canada than elsewhere. We’ve seen lower death rates. We’ve seen quicker economic recovery because Canadians stepped up, because Canadians got vaccinated.”
In response to Lightbound’s press conference Trudeau said, “I spoke with him yesterday morning. We’re going to continue to talk. We’re going to continue to go through this the way Canadians are, where yes, we’re all tired. Yes, we’re all frustrated, but we continue to be there for each other. We continue to know that science and public health rules and guidance is the best way through this pandemic, is the way we’re going to get to the other side.”