Liberal MP breaks ranks over pandemic policies

2022-02-08 21:37:00

A Liberal MP is speaking out against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and provincial governments’ pandemic policies, and politicians’ handling of the ongoing trucker convoy protests.

Joel Lightbound, the Louis-Hébert, Que. MP, held a press conference on Parliament Hill on Tuesday morning saying that he thinks those concerned about COVID-19 policies have “legitimate concerns” that should not be dismissed.

Citing the impact on Canadians’ mental health, families becoming divided, and people losing their jobs over decisions to not to get vaccinated, Lightbound said he thinks political leaders are “unwilling to adapt.”

“I’ve heard from hundreds of constituents and citizens who took the time to reach out to me these past weeks, folks who have nothing to do with these demonstrations, who are for the most part vaccinated, who have done everything as they should these last two years,” Lightbound said.

He thinks political leaders have failed at explaining to Canadians their rationale for continued public health measures, citing the vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers as the latest example.

“I fear that this politicization of the pandemic risks undermining the public’s trust in our public health institutions. This is not a risk we ought to be taking lightly,” Lightbound said.

He is calling for a clear roadmap from governments on how and when restrictions will be lifted, pointing to other countries and suggesting that Canadians “are left wondering where the hell are we heading?”

“Some seem to forget that isolation is felt differently. Not everyone can still earn money using their MacBook while at the cottage. Some are suffering in silence and feel like they’re not heard,” Lightbound said in the French portion of his remarks.

Lightbound held his press conference while the federal cabinet met on Parliament Hill, and as the trucker convoy protests entered their 12th day in the nation’s capital.

The Liberal MP condemned some of the behaviour that has been on display during the protests, saying that he too has faced threats over the years from “far right groups” that have sought to align themselves with the demonstrations.

He said he agrees with the federal government’s position that it’s time for the trucker convoy to move along, but disagrees with what he feels is the prime minister’s generalizing about what those who are taking part in the protests concerns are.

“It is time to stop dividing people, to stop pitting one part of the population against another,” he said.

Demonstrators have said they are in Ottawa to call for the end of all COVID-19 mandates that they feel curb their freedoms, and to express their dissatisfaction with federal pandemic leadership. Though, on Monday night key organizers appeared in a video indicating their desire to unseat the current government through some form of coalition and a “sit down” with the Governor General.

Lightbound’s remarks echo some of the concerns raised by Conservative MPs during an emergency debate on the convoy on Monday night.

“We have heard so much trauma from our constituents. If there’s any member in this House that does not believe Canadians have been through trauma these past two years, they clearly have not been doing their job and listening to their constituents,” said Kildonan-St. Paul, Man. Conservative MP Raquel Dancho during the debate.

“I don’t really see what’s going on across the country is all that surprising to me. It seems like an eruption of something that’s been simmering… for two long years, and governments have not been listening,” Dancho said.

Lightbound said he was uncomfortable with the politicization of vaccine mandates during the last federal election, but things began to “really shift” for him with the onset of the Omicron variant and it reached a point where he felt it necessary to share his perspective publicly.

Asked whether he is planning to leave the Liberal Party over this difference of opinion, Lightbound suggested there are others within the Liberal ranks who share his perspective and he hopes he can continue to push for change from within the caucus.

Trudeau will likely address this disaffection within his caucus on Tuesday. During the emergency debate the prime minister said that he understands the COVID-19 crisis has been hard on everyone and “these pandemic restrictions are not forever,” but disagreed with the Conservatives’ suggestion he has divided people.

Lightbound has been a Liberal MP since 2015, held parliamentary secretary roles in the last two parliaments, and is currently the chair of the House of Commons Industry and Technology Committee.

The Liberal Party has said that all of its MPs are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

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