Legault is Mending Broken Fences

3 minute read

Lisez ceci en francais

As is often the case for governments entering their second term after ruffling feathers in the first, the cabinet Premier François Legault unveiled Thursday in the Salon Rouge of the Legislative Assembly seeks to make amends.

For English-speaking Quebecers, there is the return of a minister responsible for their interests, a gesture intended to iron out the difficulties of a community still irritated by the bills passed by the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), such as Bill 21 on the secularism of the State and Bill 96 on the revision of the Charter of the French language.

The man who was given the job is none other than Eric Girard, the perfectly bilingual former banker who holds the post of Finance Minister. Girard takes over the role from Legault himself. Minority groups said that with all his other responsibilities, Legault didn’t really have time to deal with the anglophone file.

To ease relations with immigrants, deeply affected by comments made by former Minister Jean Boulet during the election campaign, and by the perception of a lack of sensitivity on the part of the Coalition Avenir Québec government, Mr. Legault appointed a new Minister of Immigration, Christine Fréchette.

Considered a person with great Montreal sensibility – she speaks three languages, French, English and Spanish – Fréchette was, in a previous life, the deputy chief of staff to former Parti Québécois leader Jean-François Lise.

Fréchette left this position in 2014 to express her disagreement with the party’s old charter of Quebec values. She will now be seated opposite the man who wrote this charter, Bernard Drainville, who has rebranded himself as a CAQ politician. On Thursday, Mr. Legault appointed Mr. Drainville to serve as Minister of Education.

There was another move, this time to counter the image of the CAQ not caring enough about racism in Quebec, a recurring theme in Premier Legault’s first term. Mr. Legault has appointed the member for Sainte-Rose Christopher Skeete as the minister responsible for the fight against racism, replacing Benoit Charette, who was also minister of the environment.

The son of a French-speaking mother and a father from Trinidad and Tobago, Mr. Skeete is proud of his black roots. He was a member of the working group that Mr. Legault set up in 2020 to come up with ideas to fight racism. One of his ideas was to appoint a minister responsible for the issue.

Quebec’s Aboriginal community also received special attention with the appointment of Kateri Champagne Jourdain, the first Aboriginal woman elected to the National Assembly, as Minister of Employment. In his speech after the swearing-in, Mr. Legault described the arrival of Ms. Champagne Jourdain as historic.

Finally, the cabinet offers an olive branch to Montreal, where the CAQ still has only two constituencies and, in some respects, has felt neglected for the past four years by a government elected by voters who live in the regions. Relations between Legault and Mayor Valérie Plante have always been cold.

This cabinet was clearly designed to let Quebecers know that Legault is aware of his campaign’s main critiques and that he and his colleagues are working diligently to fix the gaps and weaknesses. Call it a fence-mending cabinet.

Missed this week’s Look Ahead?

We’ve got you covered.

Articles we think you’ll like

Subscribe to our mailing list.