Raymond Bachand running for Quebec Liberal leader

Former Quebec finance minister Raymond Bachand is announcing his candidacy for the leadership of the Quebec Liberal Party.
Former Quebec finance minister Raymond Bachand announces on Friday in Montreal that he's running for the provincial Liberal Party leadership. (CBC)

Former Quebec finance minister Raymond Bachand has announced his candidacy for the leadership of the Quebec Liberal Party.

He's running for the position Jean Charest resigned from following the Liberals' defeat in the Sept. 4 provincial election.

Bachand is the first candidate to officially announce a run at the leadership. He made the announcement at St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal.

"I don't know whether it's important to be first, or second or third. What's important is that there's a race," Bachand said.

The MNA for Outremont was asked by journalists whether he's concerned that former health minister Philippe Couillard has been canvassing the Quebec Liberal Party's riding associations and assessing support for his own run at the leadership. Couillard, expected to launch his candidacy next week, would be considered a front-runner if he chooses to enter the race.

Bachand replied that it will be a long campaign, lasting more than five months, "so I'm not worried."

He was also asked about some of his policies as finance minister and whether he regrets them. The $200-a-year health fee was brought in under his watch, as was the university tuition hike that touched of six months of street-clogging protests. Both are both being revoked by the new Parti Québécois government, and were both points of traction for opposition parties during the election campaign.

"The health tax had one goal: a billion dollars to fund doctors and nurses," Bachand said. But he allowed that "maybe it's not the idea of the century, maybe it could have been more progressive. We'll have time to look at that."

As for post-secondary tuition, he remained adamant that students should contribute "their part" to their education, because Quebec needs high-quality universities, and universities are "underfunded."

"We'll have a debate over the next four months," the lawyer and Harvard business school graduate said.

Bachand has had a varied career. He got his law degree at the University of Montreal and a doctorate in business at Harvard University around the same time he was working as an aide to Parti Québécois Premier René Lévesque. But over the years, as he took up executive posts at grocery chain Métro and then the FTQ investment fund, his politics shifted.

He joined the Liberals in 2005 and was elected to the national assembly in a by-election in Outremont. He was appointed to cabinet as minister for economic development 2½ months later.

Four Liberal MNAs, including his leadership campaign chair Lise Thériault, were at his announcement Friday, as well as the widow of former premier Robert Bourassa.