QUEBEC CITY – The mystery surrounding the first cabinet of Philippe Couillard is finally lifted.
The Quebec premier presented the 26 members of his inner circle on Wednesday: 18 men and 8 women, a mix of experience and new blood, men and women, country and city dwellers.
“We are all proud Quebecers,” said Couillard. “There are so many things that unite us. It is time to work together again.”
Perhaps the least surprising nomination: Gaétan Barrette. The former president of the Federation of Medical Specialists becomes Health Minister.
“Basically I think people ought to be reassured we’re there for them and we have to — not change the system — but make sure the system delivers the services that it should,” said Barrette.
Couillard asked three other Montreal MNAs to be pillars of his government. Economist Martin Coiteux becomes President of the Treasury Board, while Jacques D’Aoust, formerly at Investissement Quebec, has been named Economic Development, Innovation and Exports Minister. Carlos Leitao, once voted the world’s second best economist, is the province’s new Finance Minister.
“Very promising,” said Françoise Bertrand from the Federation of chambers of commerce. “The trio is really promising, good competencies but also experience.”
In the Education ministry, Couillard invested his trust in Dr. Yves Bolduc. His nomination was greeted positively by the rector at Laval University.
“If you look at what Mr. Bolduc did at health, let me tell you, it’s a person who can take any ministry,” said Denis Brière.
Liberal women inherited big portfolios. Lise Thériault was named Deputy Premier and Public Security Minister. Christine St-Pierre obtained the prestigious post of International Affairs Minister. Stéphanie Vallée ascended to Justice and Kathleen Weil returned to Immigration, with the mandate this time to heal wounds caused by the PQ.
“We have a very beautiful cabinet,” said Thériault. “If you look at the responsibilities, men and women, I think it’s the cabinet Quebec needs right now.”
The most noticeable absentee was Julie Boulet. The Laviolette MNA was Transport Minister in Jean Charest’s government.
Premier Couillard promised his team will be honest and transparent. The cabinet will hold its first work session on Thursday.