François Legault’s 25-Year Journey in Politics

QUEBEC CITY — On September 23, 1998, PQ Prime Minister Lucien Bouchard carried out a ministerial reshuffle which already aroused discontent in the ranks of his deputies.
He appoints an unelected person, a businessman, a millionaire moreover, Minister of Industry, Commerce, Science and Technology. A position that he will not occupy for even three months, before moving on to Education.

The 41-year-old novice is called François Legault. It was exactly 25 years ago.
“One of the best entrepreneurs of Quebec’s young business generation,” underlines Mr. Bouchard in his speech. Mr. Legault symbolizes the rising guard of Quebec entrepreneurs. It represents the momentum and economic ambition of Quebec.”

Grumbles in the caucus

He made a controversial entry into his own new political family and noticed by the parliamentary press.

The accession of an entrepreneur still without a deputy seat to the holy of holies “sows discontent among the PQ deputation”, we write in the daily Le Soleil. Many in fact dreamed of becoming a minister.

The leader of the liberal opposition, Jean Charest, says that the arrival of Legault is a “fairly biting disavowal of all the elected backbenchers of the PQ”.

Only around fifteen deputies attended the reshuffle ceremony. Twice as many were missing, it is pointed out.

“MPs have made it clear that they have difficulty digesting the appointment of a businessman to the Council of Ministers,” we can read.

It is a “nomination likely to crack the great solidarity that the caucus has always demonstrated” despite the harsh reforms undertaken by the government, we continue. Let us remember that these were years of lead in Quebec, with a harsh reform of the health system combined with the achievement of a zero deficit.

François Legault represents the “surprise” of the reshuffle, we summarize.

However, this will not be the first time that he has caused surprise in politics…

He is considered a “respected person in the business community, but little known to the general public,” opines Le Devoir.

He is an entrepreneur who built his fortune in the challenging world of aviation and travel, as co-founder of Air Transat, a company he left following disagreements with his partners, according to what was reported.

Already at the time, La Presse pointed out that “in the travel industry, it is estimated that the shares he sold brought him $14 million.” That’s a lot at the time.

Prime Minister Lucien Bouchard is very proud of his recruit, supposed to bring an aura of credibility and respectability to the economic wing of the sovereignist camp.

Moreover, it was the heavyweight of the cabinet, the Minister of the Economy and Finance, Bernard Landry, who “delivered” the recruit, that is to say who finally convinced her to take the leap into active politics, we write. But we emphasize that Mr. Legault had expressed out loud his intention to enter politics to give back to the society which allowed him to educate himself and prosper.

A sovereignist

As soon as he took office, he made a profession of independence, to dispel any ambiguity in the party to which he joined, since the business community is traditionally associated with the federalist camp.

“Sovereignty is important at the cultural level and at the level of identity,” he declared then. Economically, we are capable if we manage our affairs well. It would be simpler” if there were not two governments, we read in an article from The Canadian Press.

He will then change his mind.

Later in the 2000s, he first became an eager separatist, a “caribou” as they said then, but he changed his mind when he founded the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) in 2011, arguing that Quebecers were tired and that they had twice voted No to sovereignty in referendums.

But let’s go back to 1998. We must find a seat for the unelected minister. This will be the riding of Rousseau, a safe PQ riding, in the general election on November 30. After Education – which he continues to say today is his priority – he will move on to another daredevil ministry, Health.

François Legault will never lose an election as a deputy. The PQ went into opposition in 2003, but was re-elected, as in 2007 and 2008.

Twice he considered launching a race for the leadership of the PQ, in 2001 and 2005, and twice he withdrew.

It was in June 2009 that he resigned. It is said that he does not adapt well to the opposition benches. Told him his motivation was waning.

Moved, he then claimed to be “worried about the future of Quebec” which is engaged in “a quiet decline” in “resignation and indifference”, we read in Le Soleil.

The question of Quebec is not resolved, but it is as if we refuse to admit it collectively, noted the resigner. The same apathy exists for the economic and social challenges we face.”

But surprise… his retirement from public life would not last that long, even if at 52, he felt he had “turned around the garden after 10 years in politics”, we read in La Presse at the time.

In February 2011, François Legault launched with businessman Charles Sirois a think tank bringing together tired sovereignists and federalists, who were seeking at the time to overcome this divide, to find a third nationalist way in the face of the impasse of the national question.

From this think tank, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) became a party in November 2011 and swallowed up the Democratic Action of Quebec (ADQ), with the ambition of forming the next government and supplanting its former party, the PQ, as carrier. standard of the historical movement of Quebec nationalism. History will decide otherwise and it will be postponed… until 2018.

Celebrating 25 years of career?

Did François Legault intend to mark his 25 years of political career this year?

Not really.

Last January, at the pre-sessional caucus of his party’s elected officials, in a hotel in Laval, he suggested that there was nothing planned and that he did not seem to be interested in what was being highlighted. this quarter of a century in politics – while he always recalls his past as a businessman which dates back more than 25 years ago.

“I don’t like this stuff,” said the CAQ leader.

However, he is now the dean of the National Assembly, he who has tried to make a career since the founding of the CAQ by presenting a new way of doing politics, against what he describes as “old parties”, the PQ and the PLQ.

He stressed that he is still younger than the former dean of the National Assembly, François Gendron. And smiling, he referred to the President of the United States.

“I’m quite a bit younger than Mr. Biden, other than that!”


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