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CAQ cracks the whip on Bussière

November 22nd,2023 | Opinion

Gatineau MNA Robert Bussière has been muzzled by his own party. 

The ruling Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) government will not let Bussière have open discourse with the local newspaper on Bills 15 and 40, university tuition hikes or other issues facing west Quebecers. 

After requesting a formal sit-down interview with Bussière on Nov. 15 – something this newspaper has not gotten since the MNA first took power in the Gatineau in 2018 – the Low Down was told that the request first must be approved by the party’s whip — essentially, the CAQ’s “enforcers.” “If we receive a positive response, Mr. Bussière can answer your questions,” wrote Bussière press attaché Pascale Labelle. “If this is not the case, I will refer you to the office concerned.”

We don’t want “the office concerned.” We want to hear from our MNA on why the Quebec government thinks it’s a good idea to double tuition for non-Quebecers, why they won’t pay teachers, nurses or public sector workers a fair wage, why they want to take power away from English school boards and why centralizing healthcare will make the hospital system more efficient. 

These policies will significantly impact the daily lives of west Quebecers – mostly anglophones – and Bussière isn’t permitted to speak on them in a public forum. Bussière was elected to represent this riding, and if he’s not allowed to speak about the issues, take accountability for his party’s decisions and answer to the people, then why is he here? Who is he representing?

In most cases, politicians are clamouring to get some time with a journalist — a local newspaper where they can win the public’s confidence, promote their party’s policies and sometimes justify controversial decisions that will have lasting effects on the quality of life for constituents. Why not now? Why not here? Why not Bussière?

And the disappointing piece of all of this is that Bussière is a Masham resident. He’s not some “monsieur tout-le-monde” whom the CAQ shoulder-tapped to fill a west Quebec riding. He’s the former mayor of La Pêche, who spent 18 years as a politician in the Hills. These are his people: constituents he’s known for more than two decades; people he sees at the grocery store, the local arena and during Halloween trick-or-treating — or used to. 

So, what is CAQ so afraid of? What are they so worried Bussière will say to his constituents? Do they have so little confidence in their controversial policies – like Bills 96 and 21 – that they aren’t sure where their own party members stand?

Bussière has been in power for five years, and the only times this newspaper got a face-to-face interview was when we cornered him inside the Masham arena while a Bill 96 protest was happening outside and on election night in 2022. Bussière has responded to some queries over the past few years, but most of our requests go unanswered — this is despite at least a dozen interview requests. Bussière isn’t doing interviews with other media outlets either. From what we can tell, his comments only get published during press conferences. 

Who are you representing, Mr. Bussière?

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At the Low Down, we are passionate about delivering quality local news to Gatineau Hills residents. But passion alone cannot pay the bills.

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