On Tuesday morning, Québec Premier François Legault announced a mini cabinet shuffle. Legault named Lucie Lecours, the MNA for Les Plaines (which includes parts of Mirabel and Terrebonne), as Junior Minister of the Economy (in French ministre déléguée à l’Économie), with specific responsibilities for small and medium-sized enterprises. Legault said he wanted to boost his economic team to better prepare for the post COVID-19 pandemic economic re-launch.
With this shuffle, the Premier sends a strong message that the economy remains priority 1B, right after priority 1A of managing the Covid-19 crisis. Premier Legault has always been most comfortable working on economic issues and continues to build on his brand as a successful businessperson and entrepreneur. Historically the Liberal Party of Québec was seen as the party of the economy, but that was when their main opponent was the Parti Québécois. The Premier’s objective seems designed to move on from divisive issues like language and secularism so that he can return the focus to the economy.
Looking ahead to provincial elections in 19 months, Premier Legault knows that his 80% approval rating for managing the pandemic and the Coalition Avenir Québec’s (CAQ) almost 47% support in the polls will be hard to maintain. In January, unemployment in Québec rose from 6.8% to 8.8%, with 98,000 jobs lost. Voters will judge Premier Legault and the CAQ on their performance in restarting the economy and creating jobs.
Appointing a minister tasked to deal with issues of importance to small and medium enterprises will play well with the CAQ’s base in the suburbs of Montreal and Québec, and it suggests that the government will be focussing here in the upcoming budget.
Lecours is a rookie MNA, first elected in 2018. She has held a number of parliamentary roles, including as Chair of the Committee on Citizen Relations and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Justice (for consumer protection).
“The pandemic will accelerate certain important changes to the economy, I am talking about information technologies among others, so it will be important to have people who have the proper training and to support all our entrepreneurs.
We have a trio in Health, well here we will have a trio with the Economy, with Pierre Fitzgibbon [Minister of the Economy and Innovation], Marie-Ève Proulx [Minister responsible for Regional Economic Development] and now Lucie Lecours.”
Premier François Legault
Other Shifts in Cabinet Portfolios
Premier Legault also announced that Environment Minister Benoit Charette will also take on the new role of Minister Responsible for Combating Racism. A government task force on combating racism made several recommendations in December, including creating this new post. Minister Charette’s new responsibilities will begin with implementing those recommendations. While in opposition, Charette was the CAQ point person for cultural communities and he succeeded in developing good relationships with a number of those groups.
Minister of Energy Jonatan Julien added the role of Minister Responsible for the Gaspé-Îles-de-la-Madeleine region to his responsibilities. This additional responsibility demonstrates the government’s intention to continue growing the wind sector; this type of clean-energy production already has a lot of potential in the Gaspésie region.
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