Government & Policy
Investigation into Quebec health minister launched
March 28, 2018
QUEBEC CITY – The ethics commissioner for the National Assembly, Ariane Mignolet, announced she has begun an investigation into Health Minister Gaétan Barrette (pictured) at the request of Parti Québécois MNA Diane Lamarre.
The request comes after an investigation by Radio-Canada’s Enquête about a series of decisions by Barrette apparently taken against the advice of his staff and experts.
The report alleges that a pediatric medicine project in Longueuil, near Montreal, which had consensus support in the sector, was suspended for political reasons. The project is in the Taillon riding, which is represented by Lamarre, the PQ’s health critic, who has been at odds with Barrette in the National Assembly on an almost daily basis.
Lamarre told the commissioner she has “reasonable grounds to believe that the minister committed a breach of the ethics code … specifically Articles 15 and 16 that concern conflicts of interest.”
Earlier, Coalition Avenir Québec MNA François Paradis requested three separate investigations into Barrette, including one for the same reasons. He also asked the auditor general to investigate the pediatric medicine project and another element of the Enquête report about a new radiology permit in St-Jérôme.
Barrette justified his decisions in the case. “Enquête has revealed that I made decisions. I’m announcing that I will make more of them,” he said, accusing the opposition of “politicizing a very normal situation.”
He said he is open to collaborating with any investigation, and said everything was done according to the rules.
Premier Philippe Couillard reiterated his confidence in Barrette. Couillard said it’s “clear that this is an organized smear campaign.”
Barrette said the Longueuil project didn’t go ahead because of a secretary’s error in failing to send a letter giving the green light. But Couillard said the suspension was because “none of the large hospitals supported the project in question.”
Couillard defended Barrette’s record, saying “for years, he probably has one of the best records in terms of access to services that we’ve seen in Quebec,” noting improvements in access to family doctors, reductions in wait times in emergency rooms and for surgeries.
Those arguments don’t appear to have swayed voters. An online opinion poll taken of 993 Quebecers by Léger Marketing showed 66 percent believe Barrette has been doing a bad job over the past three years, while only 19 percent have a favourable view of his mandate, according to results published by the Journal de Montréal and Le Devoir.