04/16/2013 06:50 EDT | Updated 06/16/2013 05:12 EDT

Gilles Duceppe says EI reform panel has no hidden agenda

Former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe says his pro-sovereignty beliefs will not interfere with his role on a panel created to investigate the impact of employment insurance reforms.

Duceppe is the co-chair of the $1.5-million committee created by the Quebec government to tour the province and study the effects of federal EI reforms on Quebec employees and employers.

Members of the opposition have criticized the panel, casting doubt on its true intentions.

Laurent Lessard, the Liberal economic development critic, said the committee was an excuse for the Parti Québécois government to tour Quebec and promote its pro-sovereignty agenda at the expense of taxpayers.

But Duceppe told CBC’s Homerun his intentions have nothing to do with Quebec sovereignty.

“I’m not there to discuss the gouvernance souverainiste or the gouvernance fédéraliste,” he said.

He said he plans to follow his mandate, which is to consult with experts, union representatives and chambers of commerce on the impact of the EI changes.

After that, the committee will spend mid-September to mid-October touring the province and meeting with members of the public. The committee will then propose a solution to the provincial government based on those findings

Some have questioned how necessary it is for the panel to tour the province, given that many Quebec workers have made their concerns well-known through campaigns and protests.

But Duceppe said there is value in meeting with members of the public in person in order to pinpoint specific issues.

“There’s perception and then there is the reality,” he said.

The former Bloc leader said it’s also important to consider how each region may be affected differently.

“Is it different in Montreal than in Gaspésie? I think so,” he said.