In Quebec City, opposition parties are questioning the Legault government’s decision to appoint Michael Sabia as CEO of Hydro-Québec.
The former CEO of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and current Deputy Finance Minister of Canada is set to get the top job at Hydro-Québec in the coming days.
“There’s a process, which I respect, which is going to come hopefully next week,” explained Quebec Energy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon.
While nobody is questioning Sabia’s impressive resumé, some wonder if he has the right experience to run such a complex operation. Others are unsure he’s enough of a Quebec nationalist to run one of the province’s crown jewel.
“For the job, you need to be a nationalist, and I hope Mr. Sabia is a Quebec nationalist,” said Parti Québécois (PQ) MNA Pascal Bérubé, pointing to the fact Sabia was born in Ontario.
The PQ dug up past criticism of Sabia from current Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) members including François Legault, back when they were in the PQ.
“That’s the good thing when you’re turning your coat in politics, we have plenty of quotes,” said Bérubé.
Now Bernard Drainville is the CAQ education minister, but back in 2009 when he was an opposition MNA with the PQ, Drainville wrote an op-ed in Le Devoir calling Jean Charest’s decision to appoint Sabia to head the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec “a serious mistake,” and calling Sabia “a noted federalist.”
Bérubé also pointed to François Legault himself accusing Sabia of lacking judgment in 2012 for visiting the Desmarais family home for a few days.
Even the government’s harshest critics can’t undermine Sabia’s resume, however.
“Mr. Sabia obviously has an impressive CV,” said Québec solidaire finance critic Haroun Bouazzi, a former VP at the Business Development Bank of Canada.
Though Québec solidaire respects his pedigree, it is wondering if Sabia’s lack of experience in the energy sector could be a problem.
“He has financial expertise that is totally useless, I have to say, for Hydro Québec. He has management skills that are very important for it, but what is missing is really the vision about the energy, which is very important,” said Bouazzi.
The Liberals heralded Sabia’s hiring, but wonder if the CAQ is expecting him to fall in line with all of their energy policies.
“The question today is if Fitzgibbon and the Legault Government is bringing in someone who will say yes to everything coming from Mr. Fitzgibbon and Legault,” said Liberal House Leader Monsef Derraji, while questioning the CAQ’s vision for the future of energy in the province.
Sabia did work with Pierre Fitzgibbon and health minister Christian Dubé when they all worked at the Caisse.
The government has floated the idea of building new dams to meet rising energy demand, and is planning a new law to make using electricity cheaper in non-peak hours.
Whenever Sabia does officially start the job, he’ll have a lot on his plate.