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The Caquists surprised by the departure of their chief whip for the Poilievre camp

Photo: Jacques Boissinot Archives The Canadian Press Prime Minister François Legault and the Member of Parliament for Arthabaska, Éric Lefebvre, during the latter's swearing-in in December 2016

The day after the announcement of the departure of the chief government whip, Éric Lefebvre, who plans to run in the next federal elections with the Conservative Party of Canada (PCC), the Minister of Finance, Eric Girard, was unable to exclude the hypothesis that he could also wear the colors of Pierre Poilievre's team.

Mr. Girard wished good luck to Mr. Lefebvre, who will sit as an independent MP until the start of the next federal election campaign. “He’s a collaborator that I appreciated, I got to know him. He makes his choices,” said the Minister of Finance during a press briefing.

Eric Girard, who was the PCC candidate in the 2015 federal elections, was unable to rule out the hypothesis that he could repeat the experience. “Why can’t I say that ? Because I don’t have to answer that question,” he said. I have responsibilities, I am here, I am happy. »

Mr. Girard underlined his commitment to continuing to manage the finances of the Quebec government through a new plan to return to budget balance that he must present in the next year. “I said that the upheaval in public finances that we have just experienced, there are temporary elements which are manageable. Implicitly, what I'm saying is that I'm going to be there to manage this. This is extremely important. »

In December, Mr. Girard described a lack of affinity with the party led by Pierre Poilievre, when questioned on this subject. “There is not much intersection between my values ​​and those of the Conservative Party [of Canada],” he said.

Caquiste surprise

CAQ MP Mario Asselin expressed his surprise following the departure of Mr. Lefebvre, which comes a little more than six months after that of Joëlle Boutin, former MP for Jean-Talon, a riding subsequently won by the Parti Québécois. “Eric was still whip,” he said at a press briefing. So it’s surprising that he was one of the first to leave the boat, after Joëlle. This is someone who was responsible for discipline. »

Mr. Asselin put into perspective the impact of Mr. Lefebvre's decision, which was announced at the end of the day on Tuesday. “The general message is that we have resources and we must continue with the team we have. We have a lot of people who want to assert themselves, this is the opportunity to seize,” he said.

The Minister of Culture, Mathieu Lacombe, declared that the departure of Mr. Lefebvre should not be seen as proof that the future of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) looks gloomy. “It sure can be surprising. It’s his decision, I respect that, and I’m happy for him if he’s happy,” he said.

The Minister responsible for Social Solidarity, Chantal Rouleau, for her part warned against the temptation to see in Mr. Lefebvre's decision proof that the CAQ is in a bad position ahead of the elections of 2026. “There is no message to the population; This is his message. It’s up to him, it’s his decision. We can’t say anything about that,” she replied.

Prime Minister François Legault did not stop on Wednesday to comment on the departure of his chief whip.

PQ and solidarity discontent

Solidarity MP Vincent Marissal expressed his discomfort with Mr. Lefebvre's decision to remain in office while wearing the hat of future PCC candidate. “I appeal to the conscience of Éric Lefebvre,” he declared at a press briefing. “It makes me uncomfortable, personally. »

According to the elected official from Québec solidaire, part of the problem comes from the fact that this situation could last several months. “It is certainly an advantage to first have the great notoriety of being a deputy, to have the means in your possession to make decisions,” he said. Then, in any case, if he has decided to leave, I think we have to make the break and then move on to something else, I think it would be simpler for everyone than continuing to play both sides in same time. »

Mr. Marissal found it contradictory that Éric Lefebvre wanted to sit in Ottawa when he had complained about not having enough time to see his mother when it was a question of raising the salaries of MPs in Quebec. “I don’t know if he’s going to be able to see his mother more while sitting in Ottawa, assuming he’s elected. In any case, if he is elected, he will earn a lot more money in Ottawa, because federal deputies earn a lot, a lot of money. I think they are even the second highest paid in the world, according to a study. »

PQ MP Pascal Bérubé, for his part, was concerned that government secrets could benefit the federal conservatives. “Historically, the whips always sit in the Council of Ministers, so they are aware of the smallest secrets and major upcoming issues of the State. And he knows all that, but he leaves the same. »

Like Mr. Marissal, Mr. Bérubé refrained from formally demanding the resignation of Mr. Lefebvre from his duties as deputy. “He will have a double hat, from Sunday, conservative candidate and independent MP,” he said. “That’s the hat he’ll wear most often ? »

Mr. Lefebvre, whose candidacy for the PCC will be announced on Sunday, declined an interview request from Devoir. “I will not do an interview until Sunday’s announcement,” he replied via text message.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116