Friday, August 24

Tory shuffle underwhelms Bloc Québécois MP Nicole Demers

Laval Bloc Québécois MP Nicole Demers says she isn't impressed by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper's latest cabinet shuffle, which was announced last week. "It's all very well that Harper changes his ministers' positions," said the Bloc's official critic on women's issues.

"The problem remains the same," she added. "The Conservative government's vision goes against Quebecers' values and mostly sets back the interests of women."

Brush-up recommended

Johanne Deschamps, the Bloc MP for Laurentides-Labelle and the party's co-critic on women's issues, added that if the Conservatives' new minister for women, Josée Verner, wants to be credible, she'll have to do a lot of work. She said that Verner — who handles multiple portfolios, which include international cooperation, La Francophonie and official languages — will have to brush up in those areas.

Abilities doubted

Verner has not managed to defend the presence of French in the army, nor to inject an element of humanitarianism into Canada's mission in Afghanistan, Deschamps and Demers said in a statement. They said they had doubts as to Verner's ability to defend the cause of women, since she has always voted against motions seeking to reintroduce previous criteria that were once part of the federal government program for promoting women's interests.

Re-open regional women's offices

Demers and Deschamps said Verner must now make herself heard by her leader, Stephen Harper. She must convince him of the importance of reopening the 12 Status of Women offices the Conservatives closed, and re-establish the original criteria of the program and reinstate a judicial contestation program, if she wants to prove that she and her government really care about women, said Demers.

'Must act for all women'

"My colleague, Johanne Deschamps, and I, will continue to pursue this government, to keep an eye on it and denounce policies that go against the rights of women," she added. "Mrs. Verner will not be able to content herself with the mere role as spokesperson for the decisions made by the cabinet of Stephen Harper. She will have to act in the interests of all women."

Verner a 'socially liberal' Tory

Verner, who represents the riding of Louis-Saint-Laurent, was first elected in the Tory sweep of several Quebec City constituencies during the 2006 general election, defeating the Bloc Québécois' Bernard Cleary in the process. Her win, with a 57.7 per cent share of the votes, was one of the few Quebec victories for the Conservatives in recent decades. A former member of the Action Démocratique du Québec, Verner, has come out supporting same-sex marriage and is considered to be one of the most socially liberal members of the Conservative caucus.

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