Former Quebec health minister Gaétan Barrette won't run in 2022 elections

After eight and a half years in politics, Barrette says he wanted to make the announcement sooner to avoid "hijacking" the next general assembly with the news.

'Very few people can say they've had as much of an impact' as Barrette, Anglade says

Quebec Liberal MNA Gaétan Barrette, left, announced Sunday he would not seek re-election in 2022. He was relieved of his duties as official critic for health by Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade, right, after an online squabble with a fellow MNA. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Former Quebec health minister Gaétan Barrette will not seek another term as MNA.

At a news conference Sunday, Barrette said he wanted to make the announcement before the end of session and the next general assembly to avoid becoming the focus. He has represented the constituency of La Pinière since 2014.

Barrette was health minister under former premier Philippe Couillard from 2014 and 2018.

"I didn't want to hijack the national meeting because of my decision and so on," he said.

Accompanied by Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) leader Dominique Anglade, Barrette said that since 2014, he had planned to only serve for two mandates, which he has as a member of the governing party and as part of the opposition. 

"Nothing hurts me more than when a columnist says our health system is mediocre," he said.

"We don't need to blush about our system. We have organizational and infrastructure problems… but as far as quality of care, I'm prepared to go anywhere to defend Quebec."

Anglade said very few people can say they've had as much of an impact as Barrette has in his eight-and-a-half year political career.

"Personally, if I think of my caucus... he's been a tremendous supporter of the team members," Anglade said. "Always helpful. Always picking up the phone late at night if not during the night to provide some advice."

"The caucus we had today, which was very emotional, testifies to the relationships he was able to build with other people."

Leaving with regrets

In hindsight, Barrette says he regrets the speed at which Bill 10, the infamous health network reform he spearheaded, was adopted.

The controversial bill led to the abolishment of individual health institutions boards, mainly hospitals, and merged them into 28 regional boards in the aim of saving the province $55 million in its first year. 

Additional reforms from Barrette arrived through Bill 20, which included a plan to coerce doctors into seeing more patients, or face penalties if they did not — a challenge Quebec's health-care system continues to face.

"There was one thing that I miscalculated," he said. "Today, I see that we had cut too many intermediate management. This is something that has to be addressed." 

Health Minister Christian Dubé said he imagines not seeking re-election was a difficult decision for Barrette to make. 

"I have a lot of respect for what he has done," Dubé said. "Maybe we differ in the way of doing things, but I just wish him good luck and I'm sure I'll talk to him over the next few weeks." 

The announcement follows Anglade recently demoting Barrette and MNA Marie Montpetit from their roles as party critics following an online squabble.

Barrette, who served as health minister under former premier Philippe Couillard, had also run as a candidate for the Coalition Avenir Québec.

The PLQ has not yet determined who will run for the party in the next election in La Pinière.

with files from Cathy Senay