Government & policy
Quebec health minister resigns, Bolduc
QUEBEC CITY –
Philippe Couillard, Quebec’s health minister since 2003, has
resigned from the Charest government, saying he is leaving politics. The
government announced that Yves Bolduc, (pictured), a medical doctor who was
defeated as a Liberal candidate in the 2007 election in his home
Lac-Saint-Jean riding, would succeed Couillard both as minister and in a
by-election as MNA for Quebec City’s Jean-Talon riding.
Couillard is a neurosurgeon, who was also a hospital administrator
before he entered politics just before the 2003 election. He was first
elected in the Montreal riding of Mont-Royal.
He said he entered public service because he felt it was his duty as one
who had received much, and he thanked Charest for trusting to a
political neophyte the pivotal health portfolio.
Couillard said he plans to do a lot of fishing this summer and has no
new job lined up. But he said in his career he has often changed jobs
and his criteria for his next job is what he can learn.
There was some speculation in the Quebec press that Couillard had
ambitions to be the next premier of the province. However, with the
popularity of Jean Charest currently enjoying an uptick, that appears
unlikely to happen in the near future.
Couillard said as health minister he had nothing else to do, although he
admitted the system is not perfect and new measures are needed. And he
expressed the hope his successor would do better than he did.
Asked if the job he really wanted was Charest’s job, Couillard said he
was always loyal to his leader.
As the new health minister, Bolduc, 51, faces a number of challenges:
dealing with public concerns over wait lists for surgeries; striking a
balance between public and private health care; the construction of
Montreal’s two super-hospitals; and controlling his ministry’s spending,
40 per cent of the Quebec budget.
Bolduc said he was moved when the premier called on him to replace
Couillard. He admitted there are problems with the public-private
partnerships process being used to build Montreal’s two new teaching
hospitals, but said he wants to work them out. We’re going to try to
have the best of everything, he said.
Bolduc, a native of Alma, is a physician, having worked as a general
practitioner and a coroner. He also has graduate degrees in management
and bioethics. At the Hôtel Dieu Hospital in Alma, he used Toyota
management techniques – which he summed up as common sense – to reduce
wait times for surgery.
He has not, however, been as successful in politics. He was defeated
when he ran for the Liberals in the 2007 election in his home riding,
Lac-Saint-Jean. He will now seek election to the National Assembly in
the Quebec City riding of Jean-Talon, left vacant by Couillard’s
No by-election date has been set, but Charest said Bolduc would be in
the assembly when it resumes sitting Oct. 21.
Charest described Bolduc as talented man with an impressive track record
who knows the system, and the system knows him. And, Charest added,
Bolduc knows the regions as well as the big cities.
Mario Dumont, leader of the opposition Action démocratique du Québec,
said the teaching hospitals and Bolduc’s attitude to the Castonguay
report, which recommended greater reliance on private health care, will
be tests for the new minister.
The construction of the new hospitals is challenging, as is controlling
the cost, Dumont said, we’ll see how he can exert some immediate
leadership on that.
As for the Castonguay report, shelved by Charest and Couillard, Dumont
wondered, Will he leave it on the shelf or will he have the courage to
go back to work on that?