Quebec deputy premier joins growing list of MNAs sidelined with COVID-19

With the end of the current legislative session just a few weeks away, some fear the surge in COVID-19 cases will impact the government's ability to pass a number of bills.

9 MNAs have tested positive for the virus in recent weeks

Quebec Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault recently joined a growing list of MNAs who have contracted COVID-19 in recent weeks. And with the end of the current legislative session just a few weeks away, some fear the fate of many bills. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

The number of COVID-19 cases is on the rise across Quebec, and the provincial legislature is not immune.

A total of nine members of the National Assembly — seven from Coalition Avenir Québec, one from Québec Solidaire and one from the Quebec Liberal Party — have tested positive for the virus in recent weeks, including Premier François Legault and, most recently, Deputy Premier and Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault. 

Guilbault took to Twitter Wednesday morning to announce she contracted the virus after taking care of her daughter, who tested positive over the weekend. 

"I have cared for her since and had symptoms on Monday, confirmed by a positive test yesterday," she wrote. "I will therefore remain isolated until Saturday, in accordance with public health guidelines."

Wednesday's regular cabinet meeting was conducted virtually as several MNAs were in isolation. But with the end of the current legislative session just a few weeks away and COVID-19 cases expected to keep climbing, there is concern about the fate of many bills.

"It's definitely affecting the work at the National Assembly because people cannot show up," said Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade. 

"[This] will create a logjam that's going to have an impact on our ability to pass a number of bills."

Opposition Leader Dominique Anglade worries about the effect COVID-19 might have on the work at the National Assembly, with the end of the of the legislative session just around the corner. (Jacques Boissinot/La Presse canadienne)

Québec Solidaire House Leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said he's "a little worried" about the case numbers rising among MNAs, but politicians need to keep doing their jobs, carefully reviewing and debating legislation. 

"It would be a huge failure for the Coalition Avenir Québec if they impose closure to end this session," he said. 

"I trust public health authorities to give us the advice we need in order to fulfil our mandate here in the last weeks."

Government House Leader Simon Jolin-Barrette says the government can adjust committee work amid the surge in cases, saying he already had to do that this week since Transport Minister François Bonnardel tested positive over the weekend and couldn't proceed with the clause-by-clause study of his bill modifying the SAAQ and the Highway Safety Code. 

"We are able to collaborate [...] and work together to pass different bills until the end of the session," said Jolin-Barrette.

The wave of positive cases in the provincial legislature comes as Quebec's interim public health director Dr. Luc Boileau is warning of an imminent sixth wave of COVID-19, driven by the Omicron variant BA.2.

The subvariant is 30 to 50 per cent more contagious than Omicron, he said, and that's why cases are rising everywhere.

The number of hospitalizations has gone up by 47, reaching 1,200, in the last 24 hours, according to Quebec Public Health.

Also in the last 24 hours, Quebec recorded 3,067 new cases, which is considered an underestimate, since PCR testing of the general public was stopped in early January. 

With files from Cathy Senay


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