Legault should mix veterans and new faces in the second cabinet

Time is up, show us the cards. Prime Minister François Legault announced Thursday his new cabinet, the one he wants to see manage Quebec within the framework of the second mandate of the Coalition Avenir Québec. The ceremony is at 2 p.m.

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QUEBEC CITY — It looks like most of the core group will remain intact, but there will also be some new faces at the table.

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Two weeks after his landslide electoral victory, Prime Minister François Legault is due to unveil his choices for the cabinet on Thursday during a ceremony at the National Assembly. The event will begin at 2 p.m., followed by a first meeting of the new cabinet at 6 p.m.

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Unlike the first cabinet nomination process in 2018, when the Coalition Avenir Québec won its first term, little has leaked out in recent days about who is and who isn’t.

That’s likely because Legault delayed calls informing MPs of their whereabouts until the last minute, a move that puts an end to the usual gossip mill.

On Wednesday, seeking to avoid media attention, Legault was not working from his office in the Honoré-Mercier Building near Parliament, but was holed up in another location.

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Legault admitted that the operation is difficult. In the October 3 election, the CAQ caucus grew from 76 to 90 MPs (including himself), meaning it has a lot more people than it needs, even whether his firm should expand. The previous cabinet included 27 ministers (including Legault).

“The choices will be excruciating,” Legault said Oct. 6 at the first meeting of the new CAQ caucus.

However, there are some data. During the campaign, Legault made clear his intention to reappoint Health and Social Services Minister Christian Dubé so he could continue his work of retooling the health care system. Legault also suggested that he would keep the two existing posts of junior health minister.

Lionel Carmant, the neurologist responsible for youth protection and mental health issues, is one of these juniors. Carmant has said he wants to stay in the same role and it seems likely.

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The second junior health portfolio, responsibility for seniors and caregivers, remained vacant with the departure of Marguerite Blais. Here is an opportunity for Legault to bring a new face and there are rumors that it would be Sonia Bélanger, who until recently was President and CEO of the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île. -from Montreal.

Whoever gets the job will have to fulfill the CAQ’s election promise to significantly improve the home care system for the elderly.

A few other players shouldn’t move. This includes Finance Minister Eric Girard and Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of the Economy.

“I like the economy,” Fitzgibbon said Tuesday after the CAQ deputies’ swearing-in ceremony. “I told (the Prime Minister) that I was interested in the economy.”

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One person who will be changed is the Minister of Immigration, Jean Boulet. After his controversial remarks during the election campaign, Legault said Boulet had disqualified himself from taking the same position in the new cabinet. But he is expected to survive the cut in another ministerial role.

Legault could be tempted to choose a more conciliatory candidate to handle the delicate issue given the persistent poor optics of comments created among minorities. On the other hand, Legault is asking Ottawa to cede more powers over immigration, which means he could choose a Canadian relations minister who is more intransigent than current minister Sonia LeBel.

There are persistent unconfirmed rumors LeBel will be moved to education, replacing Jean-Francois Roberge who has held the position for four years, weathering many storms including the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Geneviève Guilbault, who is the Deputy Prime Minister and also Minister of Public Security, asked to drop her third job, which is that of minister responsible for the Quebec region. If Legault does that, he may have a spot for his former Parti Québécois recruit Bernard Drainville, winner in the riding of Lévis. Again, this is just speculation.

Rumor has it that Simon Jolin-Barrette will retain his role as the CAQ’s internal leader. He is also currently Minister of Justice.

In addition to all the ministries, Legault must also take into account the ratio of men to women in his cabinet as well as designate a person in charge for each region, including Montreal where the CAQ has only two deputies.

Legault must decide if he wants to keep the role of minister responsible for relations with English-speaking Quebecers. While Legault has said he likely will, organizations like the Quebec Community Groups Network have said they would like a full-time minister in the position because they feel Legault doesn’t have enough time. .

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But perhaps anticipating that some of his deputies will not be happy, Legault reminded them Tuesday during their swearing in that he expects the party and his government to remain united.

“In private, in caucus, we can say anything, but when we emerge, we are a united block, impossible to break through,” said Legault.

Legault has already announced that the legislature, the 43rd in Quebec history, will resume sitting Nov. 29 for a short session before the Christmas recess.

The first thing to do will be to elect a new President or Speaker of the House. The head of the list is the outgoing Minister of Culture and Communications, Nathalie Roy, who confirmed to the Montreal Gazette on Tuesday that she was interested in the position.

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She’ll likely get it as she has the endorsement of Legault himself, sources say.

The next day, November 30, will be consumed by a new inaugural speech from Legault. It is in this speech that he will describe what he intends to do during the next four years of his mandate.

Meanwhile, negotiations are expected to begin next week over whether Quebec solidaire and the Parti Québécois will be allowed to have opposition party status, which means more money for staff and better speaking rights.

Under the regulations, a parliamentary group is defined as any group with at least 12 elected members from the same party or any group that received at least 20% of the popular vote in the previous general election.

Neither QS, which elected 11 MPs, nor the PQ, which elected three, qualify.

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