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Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006

Political stars realigned

Globe and Mail Update
Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003

Montreal — Separatist stalwarts fell, federalist stars rose and a former Montreal mayor suffered a major meltdown as the political constellations realigned in Quebec last night.

The victory of the Liberal Party toppled two long-time Parti Québécois cabinet ministers, Serge Ménard and Louise Beaudoin. But as surely as it created political casualties, the Liberal triumph thrust a new team of political players onto the provincial scene.

Observers say Jean Charest will have a surfeit of potential cabinet talent to choose from.

Newly elected fiscal whiz Yves Séguin, a political veteran, has already been pegged as possible finance minister. Mr. Séguin, a former revenue minister and oft-quoted pundit in Quebec, has earned a reputation as an independent thinker and occasional loose cannon. He once quit a Liberal cabinet over its decision to collect the goods-and-services tax.

As finance minister, his most popular task would be delivering on his party's promise of a $5-billion personal tax cut to Quebeckers.

Monique Jérôme-Forget is a well-spoken former newspaper columnist and public-policy maven; she had been her party's finance critic but, with Mr. Séguin on the scene, her future is reported to be in the international relations portfolio.

MNA Benoît Pelletier, an erudite constitutional expert at the University of Ottawa, has his fingerprints on the Liberals' constitutional policy; he would help steer a Charest government through the always-volatile national-unity issue. Long-serving Liberal MNA Monique Gagnon-Tremblay was being touted last night as either deputy premier or Speaker of the National Assembly.

Newly elected Liberal Marc Bellemare could pose a threat to a sacred cow in the province — no-fault automobile insurance. He has been a tireless advocate for legal changes to permit the victims of careless drivers to sue, arguing that Quebec's system unfairly shields drunk drivers and other criminals of the road.

Liberal MNA Jacques Dupuis, a tenacious former Crown prosecutor, has experience battling criminal biker gangs, and once launched a successful bid to close a Hells Angels clubhouse near Quebec City; he might be asked to tackle public security for the Liberals.

Michelle Courchesne, former managing director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and former deputy culture minister, might be recalled for duty in the high-profile Culture portfolio.

Two candidates from Mr. Charest's hometown of Sherbrooke in the Eastern Townships might see their fortunes rise in a Liberal government: Philippe Couillard, a highly touted neurosurgeon and head of surgery at Sherbrooke's main hospital, and Pierre Reid, former rector of the University of Sherbrooke.

Not everyone had a career advancement to anticipate after last night, however.

Former Montreal mayor Pierre Bourque placed a humiliating third in his east-end riding of Bourget. He was ADQ Leader Mario Dumont's star candidate in Montreal, but the former mayor's reputation for formidable campaigning took a beating in the race; he was barely visible. Mr. Bourque may have to take his pro-federalist message elsewhere.

Finally, there was another winner in last night's race, even though he lost. Amir Khadir, a physician, made a strong showing for the left-wing Union des forces progressistes in Montreal's Mercier riding. The riding voted PQ but Dr. Khadir was the surprise of the campaign with his antiwar and antiglobalization message.

Party L E T
Liberal 0 76 76
PQ 0 45 45
ADQ 0 4 4
Indep. 0 0 0
Total 0 125 125
Quebec Election
Party Results ROBTv Workopolis