Charest regrets calling PQ foe a 'bitch'

Quebec Premier Jean Charest apologized Thursday for calling Parti Québécois member Elsie Lefebvre a 'bitch' in the provincial legislature a day earlier.

Quebec Premier Jean Charest offered a semi-apology Thursday for calling Parti Québécois member Elsie Lefebvre a "bitch" in the provincial legislature.

"If it may have offended someone, I am sorry," he said.

However, Charest said his wife, Michèle Dionne, also deserves an apology.

On Wednesday, Lefebvre had asked whether Dionne had used the fact that she was married to Charest to influence government policy in favour of the Red Cross, a charity with which Dionne is involved.

"I admit I reacted very emotionally to the question because the question was inappropriate, because it was an insinuation directed towards my wife," said Charest.

The premier had muttered in French that Lefebvre was a "bitch" during debate in Quebec's National Assembly.

The comment was not picked up by microphones, but was loud enough to be heard in the chamber.

Lefebvre had asked whether Dionne tried to use her relationship while asking the provincial government to let civil servants make donations to the Red Cross through payroll deduction.

Only Centraide, the Quebec wing of the United Way, is given that privilege at the moment.

Charest's wife has been a volunteer with the Red Cross for several years, and recently headed a fundraising drive for the group.

Lefebvre called Charest's response to her question hurtful.

"I think the premier overreacted," she added, "because if you read the question, it was not an accusation, it was only relating the facts."