Like a tightrope artist, François Legault had to do some manoeuvring to find the right balance. It wasn’t that selecting a cabinet with gender parity was a particular challenge for the new Premier; after all, the Coalition Avenir Québec’s slate of MNAs includes 28 women with attractive résumés. No, the biggest potential pitfall facing Mr. Legault was striking the right balance between previously elected MNAs and rookies, of around 30% - 70%, and at the same time juggling with geographical considerations given the party’s unexpected wins in several of Québec’s regions.
Other criteria that seemingly guided the Premier’s choice are a strong personality and clear communication skills: people with the ability to deliver the government’s message.
By the time the performance ended, there were 26 men and women happy to have been chosen, many disappointed also-rans, and two sacrifices: former police officer Ian Lafrenière (Vachon) and Jean-François Simard (Montmorency, despite being one of only the two CAQuistes with ministerial experience).
Some choices as expected...
There were no surprises among Mr. Legault’s choices for his economic team: banker Éric Girard (Finance), businessman Pierre Fitzgibbon (Economy) and former Caisse de dépôt VP Christian Dubé (Treasury Board President) wound up where the pundits expected. All three are political newbies, but have impressive career experience. Their chiefs of staff are something of a rainbow coalition: Denis Dolbec and Alexandre Ramacieri come from the Parti Québécois, while Marie-Ève Bédard is a former Liberal. There will likely be three new deputy ministers appointed. As for manager Nadine Girault, she will be handling International Relations, with an assignment that is economic in nature: reviewing the role of Québec’s foreign delegations.
The casting of the social affairs team was equally predictable. Danielle McCann (Sanguinet) is the new Health Minister, while pediatric neurologist Lionel Carmant (Taillon) will be the Junior Minister in that portfolio and Marguerite Blais is the Minister for Seniors. Ms. McCann’s managerial qualities will certainly be put to the test as she takes over an organization of more than 300,000 people. Early in her mandate, she will have a key role to play with colleague Christian Dubé, including renegotiating the agreement with specialist physicians. In Education, teacher Jean-François Roberge, a rising star of the CAQ, gets the nod and will reign without any sub-portfolios apportioned, except Sports and Recreation, which new Junior Education Minister Isabelle Charest (Brome-Missisquoi) will handle. Relegated to the back bench is academic Claire Isabelle (Huntingdon), who many thought would be given the Higher Education job.
...and a few surprises!
The biggest surprise: Energy and Natural Resources went to accountant Jonatan Julien, who quit as No. 2 man in Québec City Mayor Régis Labeaume’s administration. Pierre-Yves Boivin, a veteran of CN, Énergir and the province’s Federation of Chambers of Commerce, will be his chief of staff; existing Deputy Minister Dominique Savoie remains. Mr. Legault’s new Environment Minister MarieChantal Chassé (Châteauguay), CEO of an aerospace firm, is a bold choice, as is his pick for Municipal Affairs, Andrée Laforest (Chicoutimi), who has a background in early childhood education.
Éric Caire, recently embroiled in an ethics scandal, has inherited the holy of holies. The IT specialist becomes Junior Minister for Government Digital Transformation, the file he handled for a long time as Opposition critic. His chief of staff will be the former candidate in Jean-Talon, digital strategist Joëlle Boutin.
The Transport Minister and Junior Minister will be the duo of François Bonnardel (Granby) and Chantal Rouleau (Pointe-aux-Trembles). Véronique Aubry, who previously worked for Liberal Line Beauchamp, will be veteran Bonnardel’s Chief of Staff.
Immigration and Agriculture, normally under-the-radar ministries, promise to be two of the most closely monitored during this parliamentary term. The ministers, Simon Jolin-Barrette (Borduas) and André Lamontagne (Johnson), respectively, will be overseeing the reduction in immigration quotas and plugging the leaks in the supply management system resulting from the new U.S.–Mexico–Canada Agreement. The 31-year-old Mr. Jolin-Barrette will be a major player in the government, doubling as House Leader. Another will be Sonia LeBel, who got the Justice job she wanted, plus Intergovernmental Affairs.
Power to the 450
The clear winner in all this? The 450 area code. The major portfolios (Finance, Treasury Board, Economy, Health, and Education) have gone to MNAs from Montréal’s Northern Crown and South Shore, where the CAQ ran its heavy hitters. In all, 13 cabinet positions, or 50% of the seats around the table, are going to members elected in the 450. Conversely, Montréal’s political clout is greatly diminished: only one minister, Chantal Rouleau (Pointe-aux-Trembles), represents a seat in the largest city in the province. Three new ministers, meanwhile, are from the Québec City area, including Geneviève Guilbault, who was given the prestigious Deputy Premier position.
“Getting people to buy in”
Poised to “make history,” the members of this government of change—the one putting an end to 50 years of alternating Liberal and PQ governments—will have their hands full as they attempt to live up to the public’s high expectations. They are a government of renewal, men and women with solid credentials making up for a paucity of ministerial experience. “New faces with new eyes to take a new look at things,” as the Premier put it, as they tackle three key priorities: education, the economy and health.
François Legault is asking his cabinet ministers to govern “avec proximité, humanité et ouverture” (emphasizing local issues, being people-friendly, and showing openness). It’s an approach he hopes will become the government’s “trademark.” The key to that, he says, is “to get as many people as possible to buy in”—and that includes civil servants.
That’s it for our quick first look at this new government.
Your consultant will be pleased to tell you about it in greater detail.