Montreal

Quebec Liberals demand opposition strip women's critic of portfolio

The Quebec Liberals are calling on the Parti Québécois to strip Carole Poirier of her portfolio if the opposition critic for the status of women doesn’t apologize for saying austerity measures promote violence against women.

PQ women's critic Carole Poirier said government austerity measures encourage violence against women

Lise Thériault, minister for the status of women, says the PQ should fire Carole Poirier for her controversial comments suggesting the Liberals are encouraging violence against women. (CBC)

The Quebec Liberals are calling on the Parti Québécois to strip Carole Poirier of her portfolio if the opposition critic for the status of women doesn't apologize.

The demand comes in the wake of controversial comments Poirier made last Friday before a legislative committee, saying that the government's austerity measures encouraged violence against women.

In a written submission to the committee, Poirier criticized the funding the government had allotted for the Secrétariat à la condition féminine, which financially supports women's initiatives.

'It was not my intention to claim that the government uses acts of physical violence,' said PQ women's critic Carole Poirier. (CBC)
"Let's not mince words," Poirier said last week. "For two years, this government has been encouraging acts of violence and sexist discrimination, which can be physical, psychological, verbal, economic, social and political."

The Liberals demanded an apology.

Status of Women Minister Lise Thériault said if that apology isn't forthcoming, PQ leader Pierre Karl Péladeau should fire Poirier from her job as women's critic.

"We're supposed to have a debate, a good debate — not that kind of debate," Thériault said. "There are some comments that should not be made in the National Assembly."

Matter closed, PQ says

Poirier didn't apologize, but she did say she didn't mean to imply the government was encouraging sexism and abuse.

"I used a turn of phrase that gave that result. It was not my intention to claim that the government uses acts of physical violence – quite the contrary. However, one must know that at the heart of the matter, the Liberal austerity measures hurt women," Poirier said.

She explained herself.- Pierre Karl Péladeau, PQ leader

​Péladeau said Tuesday that he won't fire his status of women critic. He said that Poirier explained she didn't mean to use those words, and the issue is now closed.

"She explained herself. I think that now it's up to the Liberals to also to tone down their remarks," Péladeau said.

Meanwhile, some women's groups in the province say the political bickering is covering up a real issue: poverty among women in Quebec.

The Quebec Coalition of Women's Centres said since the Quebec government implemented austerity measures over the last two years, 26 per cent of women surveyed said they have become poorer.

Also, 15 per cent said they've had to reduce the quality and quantity of the food they buy.

"Before they produce any new economic measures, they need to take into account the reality of women as a social group," said Valérie Gilker Létourneau, a spokeswoman for the coalition. "Our social rights are threatened and we need to stop austerity measures because of that."

'Off the rails,' analyst Yolande James says

CBC Montreal's political analyst and former Liberal cabinet minister, Yolande James, said Poirier should apologize.

"I think this is just a classic case where sometimes, in politics, it's easier to be proud and stubborn than to do the right thing," James told CBC.

Although James said that Poirier's intention to highlight the challenges women face in Quebec was a valid argument.

"Arguable, she had good …points but then, clearly, it was just a situation where she went off the rails," she said. "PKP, you can tell, he was unhappy and uneasy having to defend her."

CBC Montreal's political analyst, Yolande James, says PQ women's critic Carole Poirier should apologize for her controversial comments. 4:26

With files from CBC journalist Ryan Hicks