Montreal

Véronique Hivon won't seek PQ leadership, dashing hopes of many supporters

Véronique Hivon, a charismatic former cabinet minister who many felt was the obvious choice to become the next leader of the Parti Québécois, announced Tuesday she won't be joining the leadership race.

Hivon, a popular and high-profile MNA, cited family reasons for not running to replace Jean-François Lisée

Parti Québécois MNA Véronique Hivon announced her decision Tuesday at the National Assembly. (Sylvain Roy Roussel, Radio-Canada)

Véronique Hivon, a charismatic former cabinet minister who many felt was the obvious choice to become the next leader of the Parti Québécois, announced Tuesday she won't be joining the leadership race.

"It's not because there was no interest for that new challenge," Hivon told reporters at the National Assembly.

"It's simply because it happens in life that the personal and family circumstances are just not met to be able to go and embrace such a challenging opportunity."

Hivon, 49, ran for the party leadership in 2016 after Pierre Karl Péladeau resigned. But she bowed out part-way through the race citing health issues.

As an MNA — she represents the Lanaudière riding of Joliette — she's been widely praised for working with other parties on sensitive issues such as assisted dying and improving how the justice system treats victims of sexual violence.

Véronique Hivon on the campaign trail with former leader Jean-Francois Lisée in September 2018. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Jean-François Lisée, who won the 2016 leadership contest, eventually made her the party's vice-leader in an effort to boost his own flagging popularity ahead of the last election.

Hivon joined Lisée on his campaign bus and was included on several PQ campaign posters. But the party still had one of its worst ever electoral performances.

It has nine seats in the 125-seat legislature, the smallest caucus of the four parties. 

'Blow to the party'

Hivon's announcement on Tuesday was met with both surprise and dismay from many PQ supporters. 

"It's a blow to the party," Bernard Drainville, a political commentator and former PQ cabinet minister, said on Twitter.  

"Many supporters believe she's the only one with the notoriety and affection of the public necessary to revitalize the party." 

In recent years, the party has lost other young MNAs who were seen as potential future leaders. Alexandre Cloutier, another former cabinter, left politics in 2018 after coming second to Lisée.

Once the PQ's youngest MNA, 27-year-old Catherine Fournier quit the party in March to sit as an independent, saying the PQ was beyond rehabilitation.

Hivon said she plans to remain an MNA, adding that she's eager to participate in a special party meeting in November, where the PQ hopes to revive its fortunes.

Hivon, right, seen here with Quebec Justice Minister Sonia Lebel. Hivon has been lauded for her cross-party on assisted dying legislation and, more recently, improving how the justice system treats victims of sexual violence. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

She doesn't believe her decision throws a damper on those efforts.

"I believe this will be a great opportunity to reinvent the Parti Québécois. It will create enthusiasm for being in the Parti Québécois," Hivon said.

Hivon said her young family is currently going through a particularly challenging period and that she wouldn't have been able to fully commit to a leadership run. She declined to provide further details.

But Hivon also stressed she didn't want her decision to send the message that young parents can't achieve a work-life balance in politics.

"It is possible to have a family and be in politics at the same time, and I believe I'm an example of that," Hivon said, noting she gave birth ten days after first being elected in 2008 and later served in cabinet when her daughter was four.

About the Author

Steve Rukavina is a journalist with CBC Montreal.

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