Yves Robillard questions Justin Trudeau’s handling of Covid response

Marc-Aurèle-Fortin MP sides with fellow Liberal Lightbound in pandemic dispute

Marc-Aurèle-Fortin Liberal MP Yves Robillard, normally a reliable defender of his party from the House of Commons’ backbenches, broke his habitual silence last week to come out supporting fellow Liberal Joël Lightbound, who spoke out a few days before to denounce the Trudeau government’s pandemic response.

Response ‘politicized’

According to an account Robillard gave to the Ottawa-based Hill Times, he said he agreed with Lightbound, a fellow Quebec MP representing the riding of Louis-Hébert near Quebec City, that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had mishandled pandemic response measures and that the federal government’s actions had become politicized and divisive.

“He [Lightbound] said exactly what a lot of us think,” Robillard said in an interview with the Ottawa-based publication. “I agree with everything that Lightbound said.” Lightbound held a press conference last week during which he criticized the Liberal government.

‘Not all equal,’ he said

While saying he wanted to distance himself from the Freedom Convoy 2022 protest, Lightbound said the concerns of the Freedom Convoy 2022 demonstrators and other Canadians shouldn’t be overlooked. He said he’d been hearing similar concerns from his own constituents.

Marc-Aurèle-Fortin Liberal Member of Parliament Yves Robillard, normally a discreet presence on the House of Commons backbenches, spoke out last week to say he agreed with Louis-Hébert Liberal MP Joël Lightbound that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was mishandling management of the federal government’s pandemic response. (File photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

“I’ve heard from people worried that those making the decisions seem at times to have been blind to the fact that we’re not all equal for lockdowns, that not everyone can earn a living on a Macbook at the cottage,” Lightbound said. “I’ve heard people worried that a few might have lost sight of the quiet and discreet suffering of the many.”

Until last week, Joël Lightbound was the Liberals’ Quebec caucus chair. However, following a meeting with chief government whip Steven MacKinnon, he stepped down, while agreeing that he would stay on as a Liberal MP.

Was kicked off committee

For his part, Yves Robillard told The Hill Times that following a conversation he’d had with Lightbound, he agreed he would come out to support him and work together with Lightbound to follow up on the issues.

It’s worth noting in all this that the Marc-Aurèle-Fortin MP got into hot water with the chief government whip last December when he disregarded a recommendation made by the Prime Minister to all Liberal MPs that they refrain from non-essential travel outside Canada because of the ongoing threat from Covid.

Robillard believes more Liberal MPs are willing to step forward to express disagreement with the Prime Minister’s Covid containment policies

After Robillard travelled to Costa Rica anyway, he was removed from the Standing Committee on National Defence. Last December, MacKinnon said that although he realized Robillard was fully vaccinated, the MP’s trip during the Commons’ holiday break wasn’t considered essential, and so he was removed from his committee duties as a result.

Stands by his actions

Robillard maintains that he travelled outside the country because international travel wasn’t prohibited at that point. He said Trudeau had recommended to caucus members that they not travel during the Christmas break, but didn’t specifically forbid it.

He told The Hill Times he had no regrets about travelling outside the country during the Christmas break. In his interview with The Hill Times, Robillard objected to MacKinnon’s decision to drop him from the House National Defence Committee and said he wanted the Liberal whip to apologize.

He said he was not concerned about being expelled from the Liberal caucus, and that he believed there were more Liberal MPs willing to come forward to express their disagreement with the Prime Minister’s ongoing policies for Covid containment. Earlier this week, Robillard was invited by the Laval News to elaborate on some of his comments, but he had not responded by deadline.