CANADA

Bourassa picks his team

Anthony Wilson-Smith December 23 1985
CANADA

Bourassa picks his team

Anthony Wilson-Smith December 23 1985

Bourassa picks his team

CANADA

Many of the 99 newly elected Liberal members of Quebec’s national assembly spent the first part of last week nervously waiting for the telephone to ring. The reason: premier-elect Robert Bourassa had promised to notify the 27 members of his new cabinet of their appointments before the swearing-in ceremony in Quebec City last Thursday. One hopeful was former law professor Herbert Marx, who was preparing rosehip tea at his Montreal home when the tele-

phone rang. As his 15-year-old daughter, Sarah, ran to answer it, she remarked, “Daddy, this is going to be Mr. Bourassa, giving you the justice ministry.” Sarah was right.

The cabinet formed by Bourassa in the wake of his sweeping Dec. 2 election victory over Pierre Marc Johnson’s Parti Québécois reflected a shrewd balancing act. By appointing four nonfrancophone ministers, Bourassa gave the province’s Englishspeaking and ethnic communities their strongest representation in two decades. He also appointed four women. His choice for finance minister—Gérard D. Levesque, 59, a 29-year-veteran of the legislature who is noted for his debating skills but has limited economic experience—suggested that he plans to play the leading role in economic strategy himself.

As expected, Bourassa named his predecessor as Liberal party leader, former journalist Claude Ryan, to be education minister and appointed former party president Lise Bacon as

vice-premier and minister of cultural affairs. Other appointments: John Ciaccia, a veteran anglophone member of the national assembly, as energy minister; Daniel Johnson Jr., brother of Pierre Marc Johnson, as minister of industry and commerce; and Pierre MacDonald, a former vice-president of the Bank of Montreal, as minister of external trade.

At week’s end, Bourassa convened his cabinet for the first time and met Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in

Montreal to discuss a timetable for constitutional negotiations. The Liberal leader, who was defeated in his own riding in this month’s election, also announced that he would run for a new seat in a byelection to be held Jan. 20 in the west-end Montreal riding of St. Laurent. Liberal MNA Germain Leduc will resign to allow Bourassa to run in the safe Liberal seat, which Leduc won by a margin of 16,000 votes.

For Bourassa, who was sworn in by Lt.-Gov. Gilles Lamontagne several hours before his cabinet, the official installation of the new Liberal government was a moment of personal triumph. Defeated by the PQ under René Lévesque in 1976, Bourassa vanished into political exile, then fashioned a comeback that climaxed when his rejuvenated party took 58 per cent of the vote in the Dec. 2 election and reduced the PQ to a 23-seat rump in the 122seat legislature. Said a grinning Bourassa: “It’s quite an exceptional day.”

ANTHONY WILSON-SMITH in Montreal