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Pauline Marois (born March 29, 1949 in Quebec Citymarker) is the current leader of the Parti Québécois in the province of Quebecmarker, as of June 27, 2007 and current Leader of the Official Opposition of the National Assembly of Quebec, representing the riding of Charlevoix. In a political career spanning some 30 years, she has held a total of 15 ministerial titles.

She is married to Claude Blanchet, former head of Quebec's Société générale de financement, and is the mother of four children (Catherine, Félix, François-Christophe and Jean-Sébastien). She currently resides on Île-Bizardmarker in Montrealmarker's West Islandmarker.

Education and early political career

Marois holds a bachelor's degree in social work from Université Lavalmarker, as well as a master's degree in business administration (MBA) from HEC Montréalmarker. During the 1970s she gained experience with several community organizations, before working as press attachée for then-finance minister Jacques Parizeau. She also served as chief of staff for Lise Payette, minister responsible for the condition of women, and taught for some time at Université du Québec en Outaouaismarker.

Marois was first elected to the National Assembly of Quebec in the 1981 election as the Parti Québécois Member of the National Assembly (MNA) for La Peltrie. She immediately joined the government of René Lévesque as Minister for the Status of Women. In 1983, she was promoted to Minister of Labour and Income Security and Minister responsible for the Outaouais region.

Second leadership race

She quickly started to organize her leadership bid following the PQ electoral defeat. Her close supporters founded Groupe Reflexion Quebec, which served as a think tank. Her key organizors were Danielle Rioux, Nicole Léger, Nicolas Girard, Nicole Stafford, Joseph Facal and Pierre Langlois.

Marois announced her candidacy in the election for the leadership of the PQ following the sudden resignation of Landry in June 2005. She won 30.6% of the vote placing second to André Boisclair.

Marois retired from the National Assembly in March 2006, stating that after 25 years in elected politics it was time for her to pursue other interests. She vowed to remain active in the PQ, and reaffirmed her confidence in Boisclair's leadership. She was succeeded as MNA for Taillon by Marie Malavoy.

Third leadership race

In the March 26, 2007 Quebec provincial election, the Parti Québécois was reduced to third place in the National Assembly of Quebec, behind both the governing Quebec Liberal Party and the opposition Action démocratique du Québec. Following this disappointing result, PQ leader André Boisclair announced his resignation as leader on May 8, 2007. Marois was considered a leading candidate to replace Boisclair, especially following federal Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe's withdrawal from the race.

On May 11, 2007, she officially announced that she would run again for leader of the PQ for the third time.

No other candidate stepped forward to contest the election, and Marois was acclaimed leader on June 27, 2007. She led the party from outside the National Assembly until winning the Charlevoix by-election on September 24.

By-election

On August 13, 2007, Marois announced her candidacy for the riding of Charlevoix, after the incumbent, Rosaire Bertrand, retired from politics after 13 years as the MNA. The by-election was held on September 24, 2007. Marois did not compete against a candidate from the minority governing Liberal party, which chose not to present an opposing candidate, but did face Action démocratique du Québec candidate Conrad Harvey, who had been a candidate in the same riding against Bertrand in the 2007 general elections, and won with 58.2% of the popular vote.

Marois's campaign signs displayed her image on a blue-green background along with the slogan: "Chez nous, c'est Pauline." Marois stated at the beginning of the race that she wished to reclaim nous, showing a return to the PQ's ethnic nationalist beginnings.

Canadian tradition holds that in a by-election, a party leader without a seat runs unopposed by other major parties. Also, opposing party leaders traditionally do not campaign in the riding. Marois herself, however, campaigned for a PQ candidate in a by-election against Liberal party leader Robert Bourassa in 1985, as did PQ leader René Lévesque.

While voter turnout in by-elections is generally low, 13.18 per cent of the 33,156 Charlevoix voters turned up at advance polling and an overall turnout of about 58%.

Zoning controversy

According to a Montreal Gazette newspaper article, there were questionable actions on the part of Marois' husband, Claude Blanchet, which led to protected agricultural land being rezoned to permit him to construct a residence, and to parcels of government land being appropriated by the couple for their own private use. Marcel Turcotte was said to have been paid $500 by an agent of Blanchet after he signed an affidavit to the effect that he had occupied an unheated building on the land (not far from his home) 50% of the time, thereby justifying the zoning change application under a grandfather clause.

Marois' spokeswoman, Christiane Miville-Deschênes, did not explain if Blanchet held a contract or rented or paid charges on the public acreage and at what time and in what manner he received the right of way. According to the borough of L'Île-Bizard–Sainte-Genevièvemarker, only one area of all government-owned tracts in Île Bizard is rented, and that is a borough-run park.

Marois confirmed in an interview with TVA news anchor Pierre Bruneau and reporter Paul Larocque, that one parcel of land belongs to the Quebec Crown, and denied having received a free pass on the acquisition of it. She also filed a complaint against the newspaper and, along with her husband, later filed a $2 million lawsuit against the Gazette and one of their journalists.

Although it was initially covered at some length in the official PQ blog, all mention of the chateau scandal has since disappeared from their site.

Leader of the Parti Québécois

Immediately after being named the new leader of the party, Marois conducted a major shuffle of the shadow cabinet. François Gendron was named the new house leader, replacing Diane Lemieux. Lemieux was offered by Marois the position of caucus chair, but refused and indicated her intention to resign her seat of Bourget.

Marois stated that the project of holding a referendum on sovereignty would be put on hold indefinitely, indicating that regaining the support of voters for sovereignty would not be her main objective.

In September 2007, she proposed a strategic plan for helping the forestry sector, which has been hard hit in recent years by the closure of several mills in western and central Quebec. Measures proposed included an increase in protected forest space, an increase of productivity by developing the second and third transformation of wood and incentives to encourage the usage of wood from Quebec for construction projects.

In November 2007, Mario Dumont, in which his party suggested the elimination of school boards, proposed a motion to topple the government in the wake of poor voting turnouts during the school elections on November 4, 2007. The PQ strongly rejected the motion along with the Liberals citing that it was a lack of judgment made by the ADQ leader. Marois added that she was open for a debate on the structural bases of the school boards.

Bill 195

On October 18, 2007, Marois proposed Bill 195, the Quebec Identity Act, which included a requirement that immigrants must learn French in order to obtain rights, including a putative Quebec citizenship and the right to run in elections at all levels. The bill also proposed the fundamental values of Quebec should be taken into account in a future constitution, including equality between sexes and the predominance of French

The idea was met with criticism amongst various minority groups. The Quebec Liberal Party also dismissed some of the measures as divisive and harmful. House Leader Jean-Marc Fournier also made a parallel between the proposed bill and Jacques Parizeau's "Money and the ethnic vote" speech following the 1995 referendum, while Cabinet Minister Benoit Pelletier added that it would violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Many current and past members of the Parti Québécois also rejected this proposal, including Bernard Landry.

Outside of Quebec, several newspapers described the bill as racist. Don Martin, columnist for the National Post, wrote that the population should try to stop the racism taking place in Quebec. However, while the vast majority of non-francophones are opposed, it was supported by a bare majority of francophones. However, the Liberals and the ADQ stated that they would defeat Bill 195.

Bill 101

In April 2008, Marois proposed a major rewrite of Bill 101, the French Language Charter in light of concerns of a purported decline of French language in the province particularly in the Montreal region. Her proposals included more French courses in elementary and secondary schools, the obligation for new arrivals of learning French and specific measures for some businesses, particularly small ones as well as more power for the Office québécois de la langue française.

Leader of the Opposition

Not long after the re-election of the federal Conservatives to a second minority government, and with the global financial crisis increasingly coming to the foreground of current events, Jean Charest precipitated the fall of his own minority government, arguing before the Lieutenant Governor of Québec that the National Assembly was no longer functional. Obtaining the right to dissolve the parliament, an election was called in Québec.

The péquiste campaign was largely seen as lacking momentum until Marois’ performance in the televised debate against Charest and Mario Dumont brought new enthusiasm to the party. While the PQ did not win the election or prevent the Liberals from obtaining a majority, their return to the status of official opposition, the unexpectedly large number of seats obtained (51), and the ADQ’s effective marginalization were seen as a moral victory by supporters. Marois thus became the first woman Leader of the Official Opposition in Québec.

References

  1. [1]
  2. PQ blog
  3. [2]


External links




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