Drummondville Mayor Alexandre Cusson is throwing his hat in the ring for the Quebec Liberal leadership.
Cusson, who stepped down as head of the province’s municipalities union and became a card-carrying Liberal last week, becomes the second contender to the top spot since Philippe Couillard resigned in October 2018 following the Liberal’s election loss.
Dominique Anglade, Couillard’s former deputy premier and economic development minister who represents the Montreal riding of Saint-Henri–Sainte-Anne, announced in June she will run for leader.
Cusson has been drumming up support among Liberal caucus members and activists in a whirl of phone calls and meetings over the past week. Anglade has secured the backing of at least 11 of her colleagues in the National Assembly.
Quebec Liberals are scheduled to elect a new chief in May, with the contest officially kicking off this weekend at the party’s general council meeting in Sherbrooke, Que.
Cusson, flanked by lawmakers and activists at the event Saturday morning, described himself as a Quebec nationalist but one who’s proud of his Canadian identity — “a very strong value.”
Cusson remained cautious about his policy positions, declining to comment on various controversial issues including Quebec’s secularism act, which prohibits some public employees from wearing religious symbols.
“I do not want to get into the specific issues,” he told reporters repeatedly.
The eventual leader of the Official Opposition will square off against Premier François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec, which swept to power in 2018 on a platform promising a hard line on immigration and religious garb in the civil service.
Cusson said he sees himself as a “unifying” leader and hopes the party election will not descend into “Montreal against the regions,” though he spoke in favour of greater devolution of power to the regions.
Cusson has cast ballots only for the provincial Liberal party and voted “no” in the 1995 referendum on Quebec sovereignty, he said.
He said he will resign as Drummondville mayor at the end of January 2020, after the city’s new budget is implemented.