Liberals appoint minister for English-speaking Quebecers
Published Wednesday, October 11, 2017 2:11PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 12, 2017 8:05AM EDT
In his cabinet shuffle one year before the provincial election, Premier Couillard has appointed a first for a Liberal government -- a minister for Anglophones.
Jean-Francois Lisée had a similar portfolio while the Parti Quebecois was in power, and now Couillard has appointed Kathleen Weil to the role.
Couillard, who in recent weeks has been calling on anglophones who left Quebec to return, once again extended his hand to English-speaking Quebecers.
"Your talents and presence are needed, desired. I want you to know and to feel that you're all first-class citizens," said Couillard.
Political observers believe that Weil's role will be to help anglophones navigate government bureaucracy related to healthcare, education, and employment.
Eric Maldoff, the former head of Alliance Quebec, used to work with Weil when she was the group's legal counsel, and said she is a hard worker and quite personable.
"This is good news because the problem right now is the on-the-ground stuff that's driving people crazy, where they just can't get a service, can't find a service, aren't taken into account, programs don't reflect the needs of the community. So it's very good news to get inside the machinery of government and start the process dealing with policy and practices of the government," said Maldoff.
Former Liberal MP Marlene Jennings was not so optimistic, believing that Couillard has appointed a Minister for Anglos as the result of fading support.
"My first reaction is that Mr. Couillard must have some internal polling that shows English-speaking vote for the Liberal support has eroded significantly over the last year, two years, etc... So that finally is that what people have been asking for, from the community, they're finally going to do," said Jennings.
She said that having a minister dealing with the concerns of Anglophones is overdue.
"We are an official language community. We need to have our own pathways directly into the government," said Jennings.
Former Westmount mayor Peter Trent said if the Liberals feel the need for a minister for Anglophones, it's the result of changes in how the party conducts its affairs.
"Twenty years ago the Liberals always had two or three major ministers from the Anglo community. I'm not really sure if this is going to have the same effect," said Trent.
Jennings added that Couillard has also promised a secretariat, a department that usually provides significant support and guidance to other ministries.
"Kathleen Weil ... will have a big say about what kind of policies they come out with, what kind of partnerships are created between government departments and community organizations that service the English-speaking community," said Jennings.
Weil said creating that secretariat will be one of her first tasks.
"Actually having fonctionnaires right within the public apparatus, whose mandate it is to work for the English-speaking community so it's historic in that regard," said Weil.