Public health will give press conferences independent of the government

Acting National Director of Public Health, Luc Boileau, will step back from elected officials after numerous calls for greater independence for his position in the face of political decisions.

Mr Boileau said on Tuesday that he will soon organize meetings with the media without government representatives by his side, contrary to what has been the norm since the start of the pandemic.

“This idea of ​​having separate press conferences, points of contact with the media, to explain things and the views emerging from the national leadership is maintained, he said. So that’s going to happen in the next few days. For me, this is a condition that was fully accepted. †

Mr Boileau, who was recently in office, made this statement on Tuesday in the presence of the Prime Minister, François Legault, and the Minister of Health, Christian Dubé, at a press conference on further easing of health measures.

The following events, closed to elected officials, will be used to “keep the press on slightly more specific public health topics.” [difficiles à étayer lors des conférences régulières]still related to the pandemic,” said a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, Robert Maranda, in an email, specifying that Mr Boileau will not break with tradition.

“These conferences will complement the regular conferences where we find government representatives and other officials involved in managing the pandemic,” he said.

Request from chief scientist

Given in an interview to TaskQuebec’s chief scientist, Rémi Quirion, called for greater public health independence in light of the Legault government’s decisions.

Quirion said there has been some confusion over the months about the reasons behind the management of the COVID-19 pandemic and the health measures.

“Is it really the opinion of the experts, or is it the politician who comes in? It’s sometimes hard to sort out,” he said Monday.

Like the College of Physicians of Quebec and the Commissioner for Health and Welfare, Joanne Castonguay, who spoke recently, Mr. Quirion believes that Mr. Boileau should hold his own press conferences, without the presence of Mr. Legault or Mr. Dubé.

“The first few months it was enough, it reassured everyone that the Prime Minister was constantly taking stock and that there were public health experts next door,” he said. After a few months it would have been correct to say that we may not necessarily need this model. And there could be separate press conferences on the side of public health experts and the political side. †

As the National Director of Public Health, you must have very good ties to politics. At the same time, keep your distance.

Mr. Quirion, appointed by the government in September 2011, represents the interests of science and research in Quebec, Canada and elsewhere in the world.

Pros and cons

Together with Mr Boileau on Tuesday, François Legault confirmed that the benefits of joint communication are more numerous.

“There are pros and cons to holding press briefings together or separately,” he said. It is a matter of popularisation, of good communication of the announced measures. Public Health is independent and provides independent advice. †

Mr Boileau, who succeeded Horacio Arruda two weeks ago, assured that he feels “very independent”.

“I can assure you it is highly respected,” he said. There is no negotiation about scientific ideas. †

Abolish the position of Secretary of State?

For his part, the chief scientist, Rémi Quirion, believes that once the pandemic is over, it will be necessary to question the possibility that the national director of public health will stop combining the position of assistant deputy minister at the Ministry of Health.

“It might make that distance easier,” he said. As the National Director of Public Health, you must have very good ties to politics. At the same time, keep your distance. †

In addition, Mr. Quirion expressed concerns about the effectiveness of the financial contribution that Mr. Legault intends to impose on non-vaccinated people.

“The impact will likely be relatively small,” he said. It is probably not easy to set up such a tax. The devil is in the details. †

Luc Boileau had no opinion to formulate on Tuesday. “I haven’t even thought about it, we’re caught up in a lot of other things,” he pleaded.

To be seen in video

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