Former Liberal cabinet minister Jacques Daoust dies

Former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister Jacques Daoust has died, according to his family.

Daoust, 69, suffered a severe stroke last month

Jacques Daoust's family said he died early Thursday morning. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister Jacques Daoust has died, his family confirmed Thursday. 

Daoust, 69, suffered a severe stroke late last month. He died around 1:40 a.m. Thursday morning, surrounded by loved ones, Daoust's son, Sébastien, told Radio-Canada.

"We had just seen the first encouraging cognitive signs, and then three hours later the situation completely deteriorated," Sébastien Daoust said.

Daoust had a successful career in banking and finance before entering politics in 2014.

He headed Investissement Québec, the investment arm of the provincial government, between 2006 and 2013. Before that, he held senior executive positions at Laurentian Bank and National Bank. 

Premier Philippe Couillard recruited Daoust in 2014 as part of an effort to burnish the Liberal Party's economic credentials.

Daoust ran for the Liberals in the riding of Verdun and won handily with more than 50 per cent of the vote.

Part of economic power trio

Named minister of the economy, innovation and exports, Daoust, along with Martin Coiteux at the Treasury Board and Carlos Leitao as minister of finance, was tasked with helping kickstart Quebec's economy. 

Jacques Daoust, far left, along Martin Coiteux, centre left, and Carlos Leitao, far right, were touted as the Liberal government's three economic heavyweights by Premier Philippe Couillard, centre right. (Paul Chiasson/CP)
"During his time as economy minister, he did work to help Bombardier … and to help improve programs, notably for people running small businesses,'' Couillard said Thursday in Hebertville-Station, Que.

"I think we have to be grateful to him for his public service. Politics is never easy and he experienced it from every angle. But today, let's think of the man, let's think of his family.''

It was on Daoust's watch that Quebec inked a controversial $1.3-billion bailout of Bombardier's troubled CSeries jet, which at the time was two years behind schedule. 

Transport troubles

He was later shuffled to transport minister, just in time for a heated showdown between the province's taxi drivers and the ride-hailing service, Uber.

Daoust also inherited an internal corruption inquiry at the Transport Ministry that had been launched by his predecessor, Robert Poëti.  

Jacques Daoust took over at Transports Québec as tensions between taxi drivers and Uber flared. (Radio-Canada)
He finally resigned last August amid questions regarding his role in the Investissement Québec-approved sale of the Quebec hardware chain Rona to the American giant Lowe's.

He had claimed he knew nothing about the contentious sale, but emails surfaced that suggested he gave his approval.

'Disappointment' and 'disillusionment' with time in office

Sébastien Daoust said his father's brief time in politics marked him.

"He talked to me about it every day. He talked to my brother about it every day. He talked to my mother about it every day, " he said, adding that his father had been disappointed by the experience.

"It's much more disappointment than bitterness, perhaps. Disillusionment with the level of sincerity that he put into it, by the perception that people had of his contribution in politics."

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, left, and Jacques Daoust took it on the chin for inking a $1.3-billion bailout package with Bombardier. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)
That contribution was remembered by his former Cabinet colleagues Thursday.

"He was a very competent man, but what I remember is his sense of humor. I loved working with Jacques Daoust, "said Lucie Charlebois, Quebec's Minister for Public Health.

Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil called her former colleague "a really brilliant man who was able to find innovative solutions.''

"We will miss him,'' she said.

With files from Radio-Canada and The Canadian Press