Cabinet makes West Island history

Anthony Abbondanza
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Robert Baldwin MNA Carlos Leitao, as expected, grabbed the coveted finance portfolio in the new provincial cabinet, unveiled last week by leader Phillippe Couillard.

After Philippe Couillard was sworn in as Quebec’s 31st premier last week at the National Assembly, the Liberal leader wasted no time in unveiling his 26-member cabinet.

Of the four elected West Island MNAs, three were given substantial ministerial positions. Carlos Leitao received the highly-coveted finance portfolio; government administration was awarded to Martin Coiteux; and Geoff Kelley assumed his former role as aboriginal affairs minister.

“In terms of a voice for the West Island, having three MNAs as ministers is good,” Kelley told The Chronicle following a Friday cabinet meeting. "It’s exciting. I’m impressed by [Carlos] Leitao and [Martin] Coiteux,”

Kelley spoke a few words of a First Nations language as he took his oath. The Jacques Cartier MNA said he looks forward to resuming the work he began before the Parti Quebecois assumed leadership in Sept. 2012, but noted the challenges ahead such as the economy.

Kelley reiterated Couillard’s promise to balance the budget by 2015-16, even though the deficit walloped to a staggering $3.1 billion as of today, more than the $2.5 billion projected by the former PQ government in February. 

Leitao told The Chronicle the government will review and cut program spending where deemed necessary, as well as look into tax reform in the near future "to simplify the process."

In terms of his aboriginal affairs post, Kelley said his main concern is “to give First Nations community the right tools” needed to succeed, especially in education.

Marquette MNA Francois Ouimet, a 20-year political veteran in the riding, was shut out of the cabinet once again. Robert-Baldwin MNA Leitao, a former chief economist at Laurentian Bank, and Nelligan MNA Coiteux, formerly of the Bank of Canada and now president of the Treasury Board, are rookie politicians.

The 26-member team is three persons larger than the previous PQ’s cabinet. Under the Jean Charest government in 2007, the Liberal leader named 17 MNAs to ministerial positions.

To no surprise, all four West Island MNAs handily won their ridings in the April 7 provincial election.

Local organizations were mostly pleased to the election results, but none more so than the Lester B. Pearson School Board.

The school board’s chairman Suanne Stein Day told the Chronicle earlier this month she looked “forward to the stability of a majority government.”

Stein Day also welcomed the news of Yves Bolduc appointment as the newest minister of education.

“We are thrilled to be working with a new education minister and trust that he will meet with our provincial organizations, our board chairs and the various education-based committees we participate in to improve education in Quebec,” she said in a released statement.

The school board is looking to the ministry to resolve impending issues of budget restrictions and delivery of services to students and teachers.

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Organizations: Parti Quebecois, The Chronicle, First Nations National Assembly Laurentian Bank Bank of Canada Treasury Board Lester B. Pearson School Board

Geographic location: West Island, Quebec

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