Women prominent in Quebec's streamlined cabinet

Quebec Premier Jean Charest paid heed to his new minority government and introduced a leaner cabinet Wednesday that includes nine women.

Gender parity achieved with an even number of women and men

Quebec Premier Jean Charest paid heed to his new minority government andintroduced a leaner cabinet Wednesday, with a historic number of women appointed to key portfolios.

Charest boasted he had chosen a team, which includes nine women appointed to cabinet,that reflects Quebec's needs, expressed in the last election.

Health Minister Philippe Couillard and new Finance Minister Monique Jérôme-Forget in a November 2006 photo at the Quebec legislature. ((Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press))
"We will form a different type of government, since that was the wish of Quebecers," Charest said. "This government will not be able to decide alone, and the Opposition will no longer be able to do nothing but criticize."

Leading the 18 ministers is Monique Jérôme-Forget, who takes on a lion's share of responsibilities in the new Liberal cabinet, adding finance minister and minister responsible for government administration to her responsibility as president of the Treasury Board that she carries into the new cabinet.

Nathalie Normandeau, the young francophone Liberal MNA from the Gaspé, becomes deputy premier and retains her portfolio as minister of municipal affairs.

Philippe Couillard, the popular health and social services minister, remains at the helm of the province's thorniest portfolio, despite rumours he wanted a change of scenery and a more challenging role in cabinet.

Line Beauchamp, the former culture minister,takes over the contentious environment portfolio, and newcomer Christine St-Pierre, a former Radio-Canada journalist, will assume the culture and communications portfolio.

Immigration Minister Yolande James is the first black MNA to be appointed to Quebec cabinet. ((Photo courtesy of the Quebec government))
Yolande James, the 30-year old Montreal lawyer, makes Quebec history as the first black MNA appointed to cabinet, taking on the immigration and cultural communities portfolio.

Other appointments include:

  • Julie Boulet, transport.
  • Claude Béchard, natural resources.
  • Raymond Bachand, tourism.
  • Monique Gagnon-Tremblay,international relations.
  • Michelle Courchesne, education, leisure and sports.
  • Jean-Marc Fournier, revenue.
  • Jacques Dupuis, justice.
  • Benoit Pelletier, intergovernmental affairs.
  • Laurent Lessard,agriculture and fisheries, and minister in charge of the Chaudières-Appalaches and Central Quebec regions.
  • Sam Hamad, labour and social solidarity.
  • Marguerite Blais, seniors' affairs.

Norman McMillan, the longtime Liberal MNA, assumes party whip responsibilities,a role that will take on increasing importance in Quebec's minority government.

Yvon Vallières takes on the role of Liberal caucus president.

Opposition not impressed with new cabinet

Opposition Leader Mario Dumont commended Charest for achieving gender parity, but argued the new cabinetreflects cosmetic changes in the Liberal government.

"Mr. Charest said he understood, he got a message for change in the election. But when you look at the main portfolios, the same people are in the same place," Dumont said,pointing out that Monique Jérôme-Forget and Philippe Couillard retain essentially the same responsibilities.

Dumont questioned Couillard's motivationasreturning health minister,given the whispers about his desire for a new ministry.

The Action démocratique du Québec leader alsolamented the absence of a family minister, a portfolio he promoted heavily during his election campaign.

Parti Québécois Leader André Boisclair was pleased to see gender parity among ministers, and said he was glad to see Charest take his advice and appoint a smaller cabinet.

Boisclairquestioned the premier's choice of environment minister and was disappointed Charestdid not mention the privatization of Mount Orford in his Wednesday speech.

The Quebec premier's newcabinet is the smallest since the end ofthe province'sQuiet Revolution in the 1960s.

Charest's previous cabinet was made up of 25 ministers, in addition to himself, the party whip and caucus president.