Philippe Couillard running for top spot of Quebec Liberal Party
Former Quebec Health Minister Philippe Couillard has made it official: he's in the running to become the next leader of the Quebec Liberal Party.
Couillard made the announcement at the Montreal Science Centre in the Old Port. Nearly 20 of his former Liberal colleagues, many ex-cabinet ministers, showed up to support him, including former Health Minister Yves Bolduc, ex-Transport Minister Sam Hamad, and ex-minister for Justice and Immigration and Cultural Communities Kathleen Weil. Hamad and Weil will co-chair his campaign.
Couillard said he wanted to get back into politics because of his strong desire to return to public service.
Couillard was health minister for five years starting in 2003 but left for the private sector. The departure was marked by controversy because he was negotiating the terms of his new job with a health management fund while he was still in office. An ethics committee cleared him. Couillard said he admits he could have done a better job explaining his departure but insisted there was nothing shady about it and that the company had no ties to the Quebec government, adding he's confident it won't affect his run at the leadership.
Couillard delved into all kinds of issues including the alleged fraudulent financing of the MUHC superhospital project and the Charbonneau commission into corruption.
"I think the rest of the country and the rest of the world would make a big mistake if they assume that what we're going to see and hear at the Charbonneau commission is not also happening in their midst," Couillard said.
Couillard said he hasn't seen former MUHC boss Dr. Arthur Porter since his goodbye party last year. He said the allegations are a shock to him and disappointing.
Couillard said his vision of Quebec is an inclusive one that reaches out to English-speaking Quebeckers.
"We've all received the signals from this community that they don't feel they are desired or they are part of the society," Couillard said.
"They just want their voices to be heard."
Couillard wasted no time ripping into the PQ, saying their policies divided Quebeckers. He especially targetted the plan to block Francophones and immigrants from attending English CEGEPs, saying he's totally against it. But he added that Bill 101 is necessary and needs to be applied.
The other two candidates Couillard is up against are former Finance Minister Raymond Bachand and former Transport minister Pierre Moreau.
Photos: Shuyee Lee
Front page photo: ANDRÉ PICHETTE, LA PRESSE