PLQ leadership candidate: Philippe Couillard

Seen by many as a the front-runner in the three-way race for Quebec Liberal leadership, Couillard came out of political retirement to set his sights on the party's top job.

Former health minister narrows in on social policy

Former health minister Philippe Couillard says his government would be the "most open Quebec has ever had." (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Philippe Couillard

Age: 55

Occupation pre-politics:Neurosurgeon

First ran for the PLQ in: 2003

Current riding: n/a (riding at time of resignation was Jean Talon)

Key government positions: health and social services  minister, minister responsible for the capital region

Seen by many as a the front-runner in the three-way race for Quebec Liberal leadership, Couillard came out of political retirement to set his sights on the party's top job. The brain surgeon served as health minister for four years and has focused much of his campaign on social policy.

After leaving politics in 2008, Couillard held a number of positions, including advisory partner at an investment fund and member of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the federal civilian body that provides oversight for CSIS, Canada's intelligence service.

Having not served in the last Charest cabinet, he has been able to distance himself from decisions made around the student crisis and the tarnish of the corruption inquiry.

Here’s what Couillard has said in the run up to the leadership convention about several issues the party’s new leader will face:

University funding

"This is a high level of priority for Quebec, for any society. Higher education is the way you become more productive and you grow your economy.

The PQ government has painted itself into a corner when it aligned itself with the demonstrators during the summer and fall they basically told them, ‘If you demonstrate and you go in the street, we'll be with you.’

"So here's the recipe for them to go on and present their ideas this way. Personally, I think the tuition fees should be at least indexed at the level of inflation and maybe we should look at the ways universities should be allowed to generate money on their own. That's something to look at. 

-CBC Montreal's Daybreak, Jan. 11, 2013

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Bill 14

"Our position, my position, is very simple. We have reached a good stage of balance with Bill 101. Both communities work and live extremely well, and we of course have things to improve but, my view – and our view totally separates from the PQ – is that you don't promote a language or a culture by adding coercion to your fellow Quebecers. You help them and, if they want to learn French, you make it easier.

 "We need to speak the language well ourselves, teach the language well to our kids, promote bilingualism …

"In that regard in the French speaking community, we're a little bit behind. I wish that our kids would be as bilingual as the kids in the English-speaking community, but that's our view, that's our vision for Quebec and the important thing is to say exactly the same thing whether you're speaking in the west island of Montreal or in the Gaspé."

-CBC Montreal’s Radio-Noon, March 13, 2013

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Corruption and collusion

"This is a critical issue for our society. I think we are going to a transition mode that’s going to be very important for the coming decades. Before we ask more from citizens, we have to be sure we know that their money is well spent and well managed and what we’ve been seeing in the recent weeks and months is certainly not going in that direction.

"However, action started before the Charbonneau commission. The Charbonneau commission itself is a step in the right direction. We will have recommendations coming out of it to put us on a better road to success.

"But, going further in the long term, what I’d like to bring to Quebec is the most open government Quebec has ever had. When we talk about open government, we need a government which provides proactively information to citizens about things like travel expenses, how big projects are going regarding budget and time frame, how people are hired in the public service and under what criteria, how they can participate and interact with government.

"Transparency is the best solution to corruption."

-PLQ English language leadership debate,

On the English-speaking community

"I think first we have to listen to this message [of anglophone disillusionment with the party] and recognize that there is truth to it and address it, listen more, as I said, and do more. The first message is that I say Quebecers, everybody living in Quebec, is a full-fledged Quebecer. Everyone. That's why I wasn't in agreement with Mr. Bachand when he suggested we set up a specific minister for anglophones. I never liked this way of dividing the population along linguistic lines."

- CBC Montreal News, Jan. 30, 2013

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