Who is François Legault? The unapologetic, unbeatable Quebec leader

Legault’s CAQ occasion is almost sure to re-elected when Quebec heads to the polls on Oct. 3. A have a look at the person who is ‘all the time on the transfer,’ and adjustments course unexpectedly

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The man working behind the scenes for Quebec Premier François Legault is Martin Koskinen.

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Koskinen is no peculiar chief of workers. Legault refers to him as his “alter ego” and ceaselessly says Koskinen speaks for him, and vice-versa. But each males, though totally different, are complementary. Legault is impatient and generally hot-headed, whereas Koskinen is calm and soft-spoken.

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“François Legault has a very good instinct for the popular mood,” mentioned Koskinen.

“He is someone who, honestly, reads everything. He spends a lot of time checking Media reports and he is someone who asks a lot of questions. He is very curious to find out what citizens think, very sensitive to the public mood and how people perceive things,” he added.

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Legault was mocked when he referred to feedback on his Facebook web page to justify public coverage. But polls present Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) is almost sure to re-elected when Quebec heads to the polls on Oct. 3, with the scale of his majority being the one query actually left unsure.

According to 338Canada’s projections, as of Thursday the CAQ had a couple of 99 per cent likelihood of forming the following majority authorities in Quebec and will aspire to a near-complete domination of the National Assembly with between 80 and 107 out of 125 seats.

So who is François Legault and what makes his occasion so fashionable in Quebec?

CAQ insiders and outsiders, who’ve agreed to talk with the National Post in latest weeks, have described the occasion’s first time period as hyperactive, a authorities that acts quick and offers with penalties later, however all the time with the defence of “middle Quebec” in thoughts.

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Whether banning non secular symbols for sure public-sector jobs or defending the French language with new, stricter language legal guidelines, the CAQ has confirmed to be unapologetic. The authorities enacts reforms that enchantment to the vast majority of Quebecers, even when it infringes on non secular and linguistic minorities.

And it hasn’t been shy to invoke the however clause to be able to breach sure rights enclosed within the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — if it serves Quebec’s pursuits.

While taking part in to Quebecers’ identification calls for, the occasion is additionally aiming to alter the province’s financial future. The authorities has aggressively pursued Legault’s obsession with making Quebec an financial powerhouse, with the objective of constructing the province wealthy sufficient to maneuver from a “have not” to “have” province in the case of equalization.

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Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/François-Legault.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=564&type=webp, https://smartcdn.gprod.postmedia.Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/François-Legault.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=1128&type=webp 2x” Media=”(min-width: 1200px)” kind=”image/webp”/> Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/François-Legault.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=564&type=jpg, https://smartcdn.gprod.postmedia.Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/François-Legault.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=1128&type=jpg 2x” Media=”(min-width: 1200px)” kind=”image/jpeg”/> Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/François-Legault.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=472&type=webp, https://smartcdn.gprod.postmedia.Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/François-Legault.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=944&type=webp 2x” Media=”(min-width: 768px)” kind=”image/webp”/> Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/François-Legault.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=472&type=jpg, https://smartcdn.gprod.postmedia.Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/François-Legault.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=944&type=jpg 2x” Media=”(min-width: 768px)” kind=”image/jpeg”/> Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/François-Legault.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=288&type=webp, https://smartcdn.gprod.postmedia.Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/François-Legault.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=576&type=webp 2x” Media=”(max-width: 767px)” kind=”image/webp”/> Quebec Premier Francois Legault answers questions at event introducing Pascale Déry as the CAQ candidate in Repentigny, east of Montreal Tuesday July 5, 2022.Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/François-Legault.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=288″ https://digitalmarketingsupport.org”>Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/François-Legault.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=288, https://smartcdn.gprod.postmedia.Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/François-Legault.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=576 2x” top=”750″ loading=”lazy” width=”1000″/>
Quebec Premier Francois Legault solutions questions at occasion introducing Pascale Déry because the CAQ candidate in Repentigny, east of Montreal Tuesday July 5, 2022. Photo by John Mahoney/MONTREAL GAZETTE

To the query “What does Quebec want?”, the CAQ appears to have discovered the proper recipe: specializing in the economic system whereas on the similar time defending Quebec’s distinct identification.

By combining these two substances, the CAQ and its leader have managed to place an finish to a long time of back-and-forth rule between the Liberal Party of Quebec (LPQ) and Parti Québécois (PQ), which have been arguing about la query nationale for the final 50 years.

This has been a daily follow between the premier and his chief of workers: each males recurrently bounce concepts off one another and problem one another earlier than coming to a conclusion on public coverage. Koskinen even refers to himself as Legault’s private “sounding board.”

Sometimes, the premier will learn the room and alter course unexpectedly.

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An instance of this, mentioned Koskinen, was when Legault pulled the plug on Quebec’s controversial “health contribution” earlier this 12 months — dubbed the “anti-vax tax” — for unvaccinated Quebecers, citing the necessity to keep social peace as help for COVID-19 measures was slipping away.

Koskinen was in favour of the measure, saying there have been robust arguments to be made by way of “solidarity and responsibility,” however Legault was the one to alter course.

“He came to the realization that we would stigmatize the unvaccinated unnecessarily and that we had a responsibility to provide social peace. Even though (the idea) could defend itself on purely a cartesian level, it was best to backtrack,” mentioned Koskinen.

His chief of workers describes the premier as a “pragmatic,” somebody who is “always on the move” however prepared to regulate to new circumstances, alternatives and new info — a bit like an evolving Business plan.

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For him, it is largely vital to be in motion. He strikes after which makes corrections

Martin Koskinen

“For him, it is mostly important to be in movement,” mentioned Koskinen. “He moves and then makes corrections.”

Sometimes, Legault’s lips transfer sooner than his mind, resulting in issues.

During his first convention together with his fellow premiers, Legault blasted Alberta’s “dirty energy,” prompting fierce criticism in Western Canada. Koskinen now says Legault “regrets” his selection of phrases, regardless that he has dismissed Alberta’s backlash beforehand.

“It’s part of his character. He has this authenticity, this candour, but sometimes it puts him in sh-t.”

Legault grew up in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, in Montreal’s West Island. As a university pupil, he took nice pleasure in opening the Quebec independence newspaper Le Jour, whereas sitting amongst businessmen studying the federalist Montreal Gazette throughout his each day practice commute.

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At simply 29 years outdated, Legault grew to become a accomplice in an organization that will later turn into Air Transat in 1987. A quarrel with Jean-Marc Eustache, the corporate’s now former president and CEO, would end in Legault promoting his shares with out warning in 1997, leaving him “financially independent” earlier than he turned 40.

Legault’s financial profile caught the eye of Parti Québécois premier Lucien Bouchard in 1998. Bouchard recruited Legault to turn into the PQ’s minister of trade and commerce earlier than he was even elected as a MNA. After he received a seat, he was shuffled to turn into minister of training.

Legault took the job significantly, so significantly, he threatened to resign in 2001 when the federal government was about to chop $400 million from training throughout Quebec’s deficit-slashing efforts. Bouchard needed to interrupt a visit overseas to resolve the disaster.

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Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bouchard.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=564&type=webp, https://smartcdn.gprod.postmedia.Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bouchard.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=1128&type=webp 2x” Media=”(min-width: 1200px)” kind=”image/webp”/> Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bouchard.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=564&type=jpg, https://smartcdn.gprod.postmedia.Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bouchard.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=1128&type=jpg 2x” Media=”(min-width: 1200px)” kind=”image/jpeg”/> Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bouchard.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=472&type=webp, https://smartcdn.gprod.postmedia.Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bouchard.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=944&type=webp 2x” Media=”(min-width: 768px)” kind=”image/webp”/> Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bouchard.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=472&type=jpg, https://smartcdn.gprod.postmedia.Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bouchard.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=944&type=jpg 2x” Media=”(min-width: 768px)” kind=”image/jpeg”/> Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bouchard.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=288&type=webp, https://smartcdn.gprod.postmedia.Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bouchard.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=576&type=webp 2x” Media=”(max-width: 767px)” kind=”image/webp”/> Quebec Premier Francois Legault, left, talks with former premier Lucien Bouchard during an event launching commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Rene Levesque in Montreal, Monday, June 13, 2022.Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bouchard.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=288″ https://digitalmarketingsupport.org”>Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bouchard.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=288, https://smartcdn.gprod.postmedia.Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bouchard.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=576 2x” top=”750″ loading=”lazy” width=”1000″/>
Quebec Premier Francois Legault, left, talks with former premier Lucien Bouchard throughout an occasion launching commemorations of the a centesimal anniversary of the start of Rene Levesque in Montreal, Monday, June 13, 2022. Photo by Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Legault received and the finances cuts didn’t transfer ahead as deliberate. This prompted some younger PQ members to rally behind him and to encourage him to run for the occasion’s management.

PQ MNA Pascal Bérubé was one in every of Legault’s fiercest supporters in these years, and he is nonetheless dumbfounded Legault by no means determined to run for PQ leader, regardless that he had three events to take action. But each time, Legault would again away, arguing it was not his time.

“No CAQ MNA has worked harder than me to make him premier,” mentioned Bérubé. “But I wanted him to become an independentist premier,” he chuckled.

Like many Quebecers, Legault got here to the belief that Quebec wouldn’t be ready to settle the talk on separation within the foreseeable future and determined that it was time for the inhabitants to have a 3rd choice that was not the Quebec Liberal Party or the PQ.

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In his 2013 ebook, Cap sur un Québec gagnant — which might translate roughly to “Focus on a Winning Quebec” in English — Legault admitted that he didn’t discover it “easy” to place apart his dream to see Quebec separate from the remainder of Canada however that, in his view, Quebec needed to set the problem apart and as a substitute deal with making the province richer.

Once it is free from equalization, he continued, Quebec may have collected “enough political weight in order to take control of its destiny” and can then be free to decide on the easiest way ahead.

Frédéric Boily, a professor on the University of Alberta’s Campus Saint-Jean and creator of a ebook in regards to the CAQ, dismisses any solutions that the CAQ leader might need a “hidden agenda” for Quebec sovereignty. “On that front, he’s remained firm,” mentioned Boily.

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Éric Montigny, professor within the division of political science at Université Laval, mentioned that Legault personally put the thought of Quebec independence to relaxation and is as a substitute working to extend the province’s autonomy whereas staying part of the federation.

“Fundamentally, what he is trying to do is to make sure Quebec has more powers, more autonomy and more wealth while staying inside of Canada,” mentioned Montigny.

Legault left the PQ in 2009, and it was not lengthy after that he entered discussions to ultimately kind a brand new occasion. The CAQ noticed the sunshine of day in 2011 and merged with the Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ) — Quebec’s centre-right occasion on the time — later that 12 months.

The CAQ received 19 seats in its first election in 2012 and solely three further seats for a complete of twenty-two in 2014, remaining the third occasion within the legislature.

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“A lot of people would have left” as leader after these outcomes, admitted Christopher Skeete, Legault’s parliamentary assistant for relations with English-speaking Quebecers. But Legault stayed on and Quebecers acquired to know him higher as time glided by.

In 2018, the CAQ received a majority authorities with 74 seats, exceeding the estimates of all printed opinion polling — and even the CAQ’s personal expectations.

Where 2012 was an introduction, 2014 was the institution of the credibility and, after all, 2018 grew to become the belief of the dream

Christopher Skeete

“What people fail to realize is that this was long and coming,” mentioned Skeete, who considers himself one of many founding members of the CAQ. “Where 2012 was an introduction, 2014 was the establishment of the credibility and, of course, 2018 became the realization of the dream.”

Carl Vallée, who was a part of Legault’s transition crew after his victory, mentioned that the CAQ embodied the PQ’s nationalism and the Quebec Liberal Party’s financial document and that Quebecers wouldn’t have to decide on between one or the opposite once they get uninterested in the opposite choice.

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“Now, (Quebecers) can have their cake and eat it too,” Vallée, who additionally did a stint as spokesperson for prime minister Stephen Harper, mentioned.

Many political observers notice the CAQ has benefitted from a altering political panorama in Quebec within the final 20 years, which opened the door for a 3rd viable choice in authorities. Legault “managed to embody that” on his third election as leader in 2018, famous Montigny.

Were the CAQ to be re-elected in 2022, that will affirm this new political realignment in Quebec, he mentioned.

“Quebec is in full transformation,” added Montigny. “Many people in English Canada think that the decline of the PQ means a decline of Quebec nationalism. They’re dead wrong. Quebec nationalism is different and manifests itself differently.”

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“It is even stronger because it is consensual.”

Simon Jolin-Barrette, a younger and bold minister, who represents Borduas in southwestern Quebec, grew to become Legault’s level particular person for implementing the strategic reforms that spur controversy even as we speak — similar to Bill 21. In his phrases, when the premier provides his ministers a mandate, “he expects us to deliver.”

Koskinen mentioned that the objective of Bill 21 — which was adopted as legislation in 2019 however is in entrance of the courts — was to attempt to discover the biggest consensus potential round a “tense” debate on non secular indicators within the public area that had been “lingering” for greater than a decade in Quebec.

The legislation, which prohibits public staff in positions of authority similar to cops and judges from carrying non secular symbols on the job, is extensively fashionable in Quebec, however has been condemned as racist outdoors the province.

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In the CAQ’s view, the federal government needed to put a lid on the problem as soon as and for all in an try and fulfill the vast majority of Quebecers, who wished to see restrictions on non secular indicators within the public area. Legault’s inside circle continues to suppose Bill 21 was the suitable name and that the case is now closed.

Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bill-21.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=564&type=webp, https://smartcdn.gprod.postmedia.Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bill-21.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=1128&type=webp 2x” Media=”(min-width: 1200px)” kind=”image/webp”/> Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bill-21.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=564&type=jpg, https://smartcdn.gprod.postmedia.Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bill-21.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=1128&type=jpg 2x” Media=”(min-width: 1200px)” kind=”image/jpeg”/> Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bill-21.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=472&type=webp, https://smartcdn.gprod.postmedia.Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bill-21.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=944&type=webp 2x” Media=”(min-width: 768px)” kind=”image/webp”/> Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bill-21.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=472&type=jpg, https://smartcdn.gprod.postmedia.Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bill-21.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=944&type=jpg 2x” Media=”(min-width: 768px)” kind=”image/jpeg”/> Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bill-21.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=288&type=webp, https://smartcdn.gprod.postmedia.Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bill-21.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=576&type=webp 2x” Media=”(max-width: 767px)” kind=”image/webp”/> People rally against Quebec’s Bill 21, which prohibits some public sector workers from wearing religious symbols at work, after a teacher was removed from her position because she wears a hijab, in Chelsea, Que., on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021.Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bill-21.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=288″ https://digitalmarketingsupport.org”>Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bill-21.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=288, https://smartcdn.gprod.postmedia.Digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Bill-21.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=576 2x” top=”750″ loading=”lazy” width=”1000″/>
People rally in opposition to Quebec’s Bill 21, which prohibits some public sector employees from carrying non secular symbols at work, after a trainer was faraway from her place as a result of she wears a hijab, in Chelsea, Que., on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021. Photo by Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS

“We have no interest in reopening the debate and going any further,” mentioned Koskinen.

Jolin-Barrette, one of many extra nationalist members of Legault’s caucus, made no apologies when requested to defend his document on Bill 21, and goes even so far as saying that the remainder of Canada ought to observe Quebec’s lead by way of separating faith from the state.

The accusations of racism and intolerance, he mentioned, are “unacceptable.”

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“We have the right, in Quebec, to make our own choices. That is fundamental and should be very well understood,” he emphasised. “Quebecers make their own choices and Quebecers have a right to decide how their collective life, their society, moves forward.”

While identification politics took up more room than anticipated within the first time period, the CAQ — and Legault particularly — didn’t quit on the target of making extra wealth in Quebec and relentlessly pursued financial alternatives, even whereas preventing the pandemic.

Catherine Loubier, who was Quebec’s delegate basic in New York for two-and-a-half years, was on the forefront of the premier’s efforts to extend international funding. While there, Loubier handled these engaged on Wall Street, and mentioned New Yorkers have been shocked to see a premier converse their language.

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“New York is transactional,” Loubier mentioned. “People go there to make deals. So if you go to a meeting and you don’t really have an ask or if it’s not clear after five minutes what do you want, how much it costs or what do you want to do here … New Yorkers will get impatient.”

“Legault has the perfect personality to sit in front of the New York crowd because he’s transactional,” she added. “Five minutes have gone by and the person in charge knows exactly what he wants and what he is probably willing to do to get it.”

Koskinen mentioned that the CAQ leader is “frustrated” that he was not capable of focus extra on the province’s financial improvement due to the pandemic.

He confirmed the CAQ’s second mandate to be largely centered on the economic system, as geopolitical tensions are revealing the necessity to depend on North American provide chains. But, Koskinen hinted at extra energy struggles with Ottawa as Quebec strives to have extra powers in immigration.

“We won’t be against immigration, but we’ll have to protect the future of the French language,” Koskinen mentioned.

What about Legault? Will the apparently unbeatable premier keep on for the entire time period if he is re-elected?

“It’ll all depend on his health, his energy and his passion,” mentioned his chief of workers. “He loves his job, but he is not someone who will be clinging on to it.”

“I think he wants to stay for the next four years, but it’s way too early to say.”



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