Gertrude Bourdon in tight race in Quebec City riding Jean-Lesage
The 2018 Quebec general election is looking like it’ll shape up to be a close race in some tight ridings. One of those ridings is in Quebec City, where a controversial candidate has been making headlines.
Gertrude Bourdon will become the next health minister if the Liberals form the government, but first, she has to get elected.
Bourdon is working double duty this election. The former CEO of the Laval University hospital centre, a position she left to run as the Liberal candidate in the riding of Jean-Lesage, has also been travelling with Liberal leader Philippe Couillard through parts of the campaign.
Couillard announced that Bourdon will become the next health minister if his government is re-elected, while outgoing health minister Gaetan Barrette will become treasury board president.
“If I should find myself as the minister of health, I (want to) reinforce information, to better communicate what we’re doing. Not communicate for communication’s sake, but to speak to those who are there to benefit, that is to say, our patients,” Bourdon told Global News.
However, her jump into politics has gotten off to a shaky start in part due to Bourdon’s lack of communication about her own intentions. The Coaliton Avenir Quebec (CAQ) said Bourdon agreed to run for them before changing her mind at the last minute to join the Liberals, questions about which, the rookie candidate tried to dodge.
Critics called her an opportunist who was shopping around for a ministerial position.
She is not taking that criticism personally.
“There was a panoply of opinions and it will always be like that,” she said.
“I was approached, solicited by the parties. I was minding my business in my office. They approached me — they saw me as a potential health minister — and I took the time to understand,” she explained.
She says she sees herself as a “real support” between the people who work in the health system and those patients accessing services.
“Everyday I hear this, ‘Madame Bourdon, when we’re in the system, it’s good. We’re taken care of, we’re treated well,” she said. It’s the entry into the system — long wait lists, for example, that is the challenge. Bourdon said continuing with reforms put in place by the Liberals will produce results.
The riding of Jean-Lesage is concentrated largely in the Quebec City Limoilou neighbourhood, where there are three hospitals and 18 seniors homes; health is a top issue for all four main political parties.
“Everyone, every professional who works in the system, they have so much pressure on them,” said Sol Zanetti, candidate for Quebec Solidaire.
Zanetti said Bourdon has lost credibility for choosing the Liberals and defending Barrette’s health care reforms, which he says are particularly unpopular in this riding. However, he says this gives an advantage to his own campaign.
“I think that people want change and they see that the CAQ and the Parti Liberal are pretty much the same thing, so they’re up for Quebec Solidaire. But there was always this big support in the centre of Quebec City for left-wing policies and independence,” he said.
The CAQ candidate in Jean-Lesage says “change” and “renewal” — her party’s taglines — are resonating with voters. In health, that includes a plan to change the way doctors are paid and give more responsibility to nurses and pharmacists.
“That could allow the (system) to become unclogged,” said candidate Christiane Gamache.
Asked if running against a high profile candidate for another party changed her strategy, Gamache said she’s not paying attention to her competition.
“I’m running this race alone,” she said laughingly.
The candidate for the Parti Quebecois, Claire Vignola, is an artist and mental health advocate, who wants to see free universal access to psychologists. Like Gamache and Bourdon, she’s jumping into politics for the first time in her 60s.
“For me, it’s my first experience, and for the first, I think it’s a good one. … Madame, Bourdon, I’m sure that if she’s where she is, it’s because she probably has a lot of qualities, but in politics, I think we’re all at the same place, because it’s her first time,” Vignola said.
Jean-Lesage has been held by the Liberals since 2008, making this race Bourdon’s to lose.
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.