The premier is under fire for prioritizing hockey while the province contends with bigger issues.
Quebec Premier François Legault wasn't looking for a negative reaction when he announced his hockey plan, which plays directly to one of the province's passions, but that's exactly what he got.
Late Thursday afternoon, Legault announced the creation of the Comité québécois sur le développement du hockey, a committee that will aim to "restore our national sport to its former glory, to instil a love of hockey in young people and to properly develop Quebec talent in a positive and safe environment," according to the premier.
But Legault is being dragged over his plan that some have called a "populist" distraction from more important issues.
Aujourd\u2019hui, j\u2019\u00e9tais au Centre Bell avec la ministre d\u00e9l\u00e9gu\u00e9e \u00e0 l\u2019\u00c9ducation, @IsabelleCharest, pour faire une annonce importante pour nos jeunes et notre sport national, le hockey.\n\nPour en savoir plushttps://www.facebook.com/FrancoisLegaultPremierMinistre/posts/4687617071295286\u00a0\u2026pic.twitter.com/XmgHaRALbA— Fran\u00e7ois Legault (@Fran\u00e7ois Legault) 1637278177
Allan Walsh, a well-regarded hockey agent who represents several Quebec-born players like Jonathan Drouin and Marc-André Fleury, took to Twitter to comment that growing hockey in Quebec is "not rocket science."
"Start with developing players at the QMJHL level instead of exploiting them. There [are] a few teams that do a great job, the majority will do anything to maximize profits to the detriment of players' futures."
Somebody may want to tell Legault and Plante that Belzile and Ouellet are in the lineup tonight, so a provincewide cataclysm as been averted and they can get back to that pesky little pandemic that's killed thousands of the same people they want to see on the hockey team so badly— Jay Farrar (@Jay Farrar) 1620849653
The committee is tasked with addressing several major issues — including athlete development, the development of women's hockey, coaching, accessibility, safety and integrity — with a final report due on March 31, 2022.
For now, though, it's mostly rhetoric. In a statement, Legault exclaimed that hockey "is part of our identity, our pride and also part of the pleasures of life."
"This is how we are going to become a breeding ground for talent again. This is how Quebec will once again become a powerhouse in hockey."
Legault qui s\u2019occupe du hockey pr\u00e9sentement , cet homme est une honte pour le Qu\u00e9bec , alors que 6700 vies fauch\u00e9es par la COVID-19 dans les CHSLD \u00e0 cause d'une gestion de merde , le gouvernement a d\u00e9truit des rapports d\u2019inspection,a emp\u00each\u00e9 des a\u00een\u00e9s de dire un dernier adieu— Saveursinoubliables (@Saveursinoubliables) 1637255397
Several more people criticized Legault for announcing this plan while his administration is in the middle of an inquest into the number of deaths during the peak of the pandemic at the province's CHSLDs. Over 4,000 elderly people died in CHSLDs during the first wave of COVID-19.
"When will you have a conference to explain your catastrophic management of CHSLDs?" inquired one Twitter user.
The premier was mum on that issue during his hockey press conference.
Kuei , je ne comprends pas pourquoi qu\u2019il n\u2019y a pas une personne issue des 1ers nations au comite . Il y a des experts autochtones qui ont jou\u00e9s dans la LHJMQ et LNH et vous savez qu\u2019il y a eu du racisme au hockey dans les arenas au Qc.— Mike Mckenzie (@Mike Mckenzie) 1637325884
The committee itself, which is made up entirely of white people, has also been criticized for not including any Indigenous voices.
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