Quebec Premier Marois announces new cabinet

Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois has been sworn in as the province's 30th premier, the first woman to hold the job.

Economics Prof. Nicolas Marceau named finance minister; Dr. Réjean Hébert named to health

Freshly appointed Treasury Board President Stéphane Bédard, right, shakes hands with cabinet colleagues, from right, Pascal Bérubé (tourism), Daniel Breton (environment), Pierre Duchesne (higher education) and Martine Ouellet (natural resources). Quebec's new cabinet has 23 ministers plus Premier Pauline Marois. (CBC)

Stressing several times that her government is aiming to achieve Quebec's separation from Canada, new Premier Pauline Marois announced a slate of ministers on Wednesday that includes some Parti Québécois stalwarts as well as quite a few freshly minted legislators.

"On Sept. 4, Quebecers chose to turn the page, to open a new chapter in Quebec's history," Marois said in Quebec City. "My government is a sovereigntist one. We have the conviction that the future of Quebec is that of a sovereign country.

"To remain a province in Canada constitutes an unacceptable risk for Quebec.... What we'll do in the context of a minority government is to protect each parcel of sovereignty in our hands, and strive for more."

The PQ leader was sworn in as the province's 30th premier, the first woman to hold the job, in a private mid-afternoon ceremony, and presented her cabinet at around 4:15 p.m. ET.

Her ministers include:

  • Nicolas Marceau, a former professor of economics at UQAM, the University of Quebec in Montreal, who becomes finance minister.
  • Industry minister is Élaine Zakaïb, the former CEO of the FTQ labour-sponsored investment fund.
  • Dr. Réjean Hébert, the former dean of medicine at the University of Sherbrooke, becomes health minister.
  • François Gendron, the dean of Quebec's national assembly with 35 years' service, was named deputy premier and minister for agriculture and fisheries.
  • The minister for higher education and research is Pierre Duchesne.
  • Martine Ouellet becomes minister of natural resources.
  • Agnès Maltais was named labour minister.
  • Bertrand St-Arnaud is the new justice minister.
  • Bernard Drainville, a former Marois rival, gets the portfolio of democratic institutions and citizen participation.
  • Marie Malavoy is education minister.

As she introduced each one, she gave them explicit policy mandates to carry out — the most crowd-pleasing of which was her direction to Duchesne, in charge of universities, to revoke the former Liberal government's crisis-spurring tuition hike. The room burst into applause at that instruction.

Marois says her priority will be integrity, including 'managing Quebecers' money with the utmost rigour.' (CBC)

Duchesne later said he wasn't sure whether cancelling the tuition hike would be on the agenda at the government's first cabinet meeting on Thursday, but in any case, "we won't wait long."

"We need to get at this soon. We'll meet with everyone," Duchesne promised.

Marois also tasked her ministers with bringing in a fixed-date election law, a new party financing law, a secularism charter, a family doctor for every Quebecer and a new French Language Charter. She said her priority will be integrity — implementing the recommendations of the Charbonneau commission into construction industry corruption as soon as they're published, and working with the public service to make it the most efficient possible.

"That means managing Quebecers' money with the utmost rigour," the new premier said.

Léo Bureau-Blouin gets post

While Gendron is the most senior MNA named to cabinet, the youngest to receive a post Wednesday was Léo Bureau-Blouin, named parliamentary secretary to the premier for youth issues. Bureau-Blouin was a leader of Quebec's student movement and a headline figure in the months-long student strike until June 1, when he completed his term as president of FECQ, the Quebec federation of college students.

Other nominations that raised a few eyebrows include Sylvain Gaudreault, a first-time minister who takes over in transport and municipal affairs — two domains that will be in the firing line as the Charbonneau commission unfolds.

Daniel Breton, the Quebec Green Party founder who was named environment minister and minister for sustainable development, is a first-time MNA. And he's not the only one. Three other freshly minted MNAs are getting portfolios: Duchesne in higher education, Zakaïb in industry and Diane De Courcy, who takes on immigration as well as the hot-button Bill 101 bailiwick.

Marceau, who has never held a cabinet position, gets the crucial finance portfolio. His predecessor, Liberal Raymond Bachand, said Wednesday he has respect for the economist but worries that he will be "surrounded by radicals" in cabinet. Bachand has done all but formally announce that he will be running for the Liberal leadership in the wake of Jean Charest's resignation.

Cabinet one-third women

In all, Marois's new cabinet has 23 ministers apart from the premier, plus two other non-portfolio MNAs who will sit in on meetings as a result of their legislative functions. That's two fewer than the cabinet of the outgoing Liberals, but five more than the minority Liberal government of 2007-08.

Eight of the 23 ministers are women.

The PQ's minority government has 54 seats in Quebec's national assembly. The Liberals hold 50, the Coalition Avenir Québec has 19 and Québec Solidaire won two.

The PQ ousted the Liberals from nine years in power in the Sept. 4 provincial election.

Marois, bottom centre, poses with her cabinet after they were sworn in as ministers Wednesday in Quebec City. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Full list of new Quebec cabinet ministers and their portfolios:

  • Pauline Marois: premier and minister for youth.

  • François Gendron: deputy premier and minister for agriculture and fisheries.

  • Stéphane Bédard: Treasury Board president.

  • Nicolas Marceau: finance.  

  • Agnès Maltais: Labour and status of women.

  • Bernard Drainville: democratic institutions and citizenship participation.

  • Bertrand St-Arnaud: justice. 

  • Nicole Léger: families.

  • Marie Malavoy: education, leisure and sport.  

  • Jean-François Lisée: international relations, Francophonie and trade.

  • Sylvain Gaudreault: transport and municipal affairs.

  • Martine Ouellet: natural resources.

  • Alexandre Cloutier: intergovernmental affairs and sovereigntist governance.

  • Réjean Hébert: health, social services and seniors.  

  • Véronique Hivon: public health and youth protection.

  • Maka Kotto: culture and communications. 

  • Stéphane Bergeron: public security. 

  • Pierre Duchesne: higher education, research, science and technology.

  • Diane De Courcy: immigration, citizenship and the French Language Charter.

  • Daniel Breton: environment and sustainable development.

  • Pascal Bérubé: tourism. 

  • Élaine Zakaïb: industry.

  • Gaétan Lelièvre: minister for regions.

  • Élizabeth Larouche: aboriginal affairs.

Also sitting in on cabinet meetings, but with no portfolios of their own:

  • Yves-François Blanchet, government whip.

  • Marjolain Dufour: caucus chair.

Responbility for Quebec's regions was divvied up between 14 of the new cabinet members. A further 11 Parti Québécois MNAs, including Léo Bureau-Blouin, were named parliamentary secretaries, positions in which they assist ministers with announcements and legislative matters.