Bloc MP on year-long undisclosed leave says he has been battling bipolar disorder

Bloc Québécois MP Simon Marcil has received full salary of $182,600, plus expenses. He is due back from undisclosed medical leave Jan. 10.

OTTAWA – Quietly on medical leave from work since last January, Bloc Québécois MP Simon Marcil announced on Tuesday that he has been dealing with mental health issues and was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

“Over the last year, I’ve unfortunately had to be absent while facing mental health issues. Week after week, I hoped to be able to return, but against all hopes, my leave unexpectedly extended as my health was slow to improve,” the MP for the Montreal-area riding of Mirabel wrote in French on social media.

“Worse yet, for several months we had no idea what problem I was dealing with exactly, which cast even more uncertainty on the situation. My doctor then concluded the obvious: bipolar disorder.”

His statement came hours

after National Post reported

that Marcil had been on medical leave from his job as an MP since January 31. His absence was never made public by him or his party and was unknown to most, including the mayor of the city he represents in Parliament.

His last statement in committee or in the House of Commons dates back to December 2019, and his last recorded vote was on January 27, 2020.

But experts and members of Marcil’s own party have questioned the Bloc’s decision to keep the absence quiet from Canadians, particularly because of the important and public role of a member of Parliament.

“This is indeed a very weird situation and trying to hide such a long absence is wrong,” Daniel Béland, director of McGill’s Institute for the Study of Canada, wrote on social media Tuesday.

He was agreeing with comments made in the report by Mike Medeiros, a Canadian electoral politics expert now teaching at the University of Amsterdam, who said that the Bloc’s decision was “very strange”.

“He is an MP, he has obligations to his constituents. And part of that obligation is to be direct about what’s happening with your situation. If you disappear for one year, it becomes a problem for representative democracy,” Medeiros said in an interview Monday.

Others, such as NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice, are critical of the fact that Marcil — who continues to collect his full salary of $182,600 — was reimbursed by the government for some expenses related to his secondary residence during his absence

For example, the Mirabel MP claimed $14,150 in expenses between January 1 and September 16, 2020, for his secondary residence in a remote village of less than 400 inhabitants one hour north of Ottawa.

Marcil’s riding is roughly one and a half hours away from Parliament.

“Like everyone else, a member of Parliament has the right to be absent for health or family reasons,” Boulerice said in a statement. “However, what is troubling is the fact that he has been claiming reimbursement for his second home for almost a year while he is not working in Parliament.”

“I find it difficult to justify this to voters. I think his political party should have told him that this is inappropriate behaviour,” Boulerice added.

Marcil did not address the issue of his expenses either following questions sent by National Post on Sunday or in his statement on Tuesday. On Facebook, he assured constituents that work had continued at his riding office in his absence.

“Throughout my leave of absence, I can assure you that my constituency office continued to meet the needs of the population, under the supervision of the Bloc Québécois team,” the MP wrote on Facebook.

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques