Photo: Paul Chiasson, The canadian Press
The premier of Quebec, François Legault
Marco Bélair-Cirino and
in Quebec city
June 20, 2020
The crisis of the COVID-19 has struck hard. But, like any other crisis, it has commissioned quick decisions, difficult and considerable impact, the weight of which rests entirely on the shoulders of the prime minister.
After having declared the state of emergency health, François Legault led the charge against the “cursed virus” from the third floor of the building Honoré-Mercier. With his bodyguards, he ruled with shots of press conferences, ministerial orders and decrees. The cross-powers were, for the most tus.
Behind the controls of the State, the ex-business man has felt ” a bit alone “, he confided to Radio-Canada this week.
The loneliness of power, “that is, I think, the thing that is most true,” says Nicole Stafford, ex-chief of staff of Pauline Marois, with whom she has lived the tragedy of railway in Lac-Mégantic in the summer of 2013. “At any given time, you need someone to slice and decides, and it is the prime minister. It is him who is responsible, ” she says.
This loneliness is all the more weighty as ex-post, all the decisions of a prime minister can be called into question — including by its allies. “And this is the first or the first minister who assumes. […] He or she has agreed, then he or she is responsible. “
To lead the battle against the COVID-19, François Legault is surrounded by the national director of public health, Horacio Arruda, and advisors sorted on the pane, starting with his chief of staff, Martin Koskinen. The “first circle of the prime minister” boils down to this long-time friend, with whom he has developed a “complicity of thought” upon their first meeting, in 2000.
The second circle includes her chief of cabinet deputy, Claude Laflamme, whom he has known for Transat in the 1990s, and the secretary general of the executive council, Yves Ouellet. Other members of his political staff have contributed to the discussions.
Ministers have been involved “more informal,” explains the firm of François Legault. In some cases, they learned of the decisions concerning their departments without being able to say a word, seeing that rather entrust the task to fine tune the details. “You can’t manage in times of crisis by following the normal processes,” says an adviser to the prime minister.
The office of the prime minister has many powers and it can be seen in a particular way in situations of crisis such as this one. It is the conductor. He has no choice. He is personally responsible for everything.
— Martine Tremblay
A question of trust first
However, to say that François Legault has “slowed down” his Council of ministers, there is a not, warns Martine Tremblay, recalling that Mr. Legault has never presented alone in front of the cameras during the pandemic — in contrast to its federal counterpart, Justin Trudeau.
What’s more, a prime minister, “has no ramming [time of crisis], because everyone turns to him,” note that accompanied the premiers René Lévesque and Pierre Marc Johnson in the exercise of power. “It is the prime minister who decides with his bodyguards. But, normally, the ministers must be put in the game eventually, if only to avoid the confusion, ” she continued.
Ms. Tremblay points out in passing that ministers can be found in the “inner circle” (“ inner circle “) at one time or another of a crisis as ” they had a close relationship at the start with the prime minister “.
“In the end, who is really in the loop in the decision-making process ? It is the prime minister who will decide. […] In these moments, there is so much adrenaline, intensity, pressure, and stress that the confidence of individuals to each other becomes paramount. Therefore, it can explain some choices, ” she says.
The author of Behind closed doorsis reminiscent of the “last mile” of the tug of war between Quebec and Ottawa before the patriation of the Constitution “, which culminated with the Night of the long knives on November 4, 1981.
At the time, several were explained poorly why is the prime minister René Lévesque had left the key Jacques Parizeau and others, preferring instead Claude Morin, Claude Charron and Marc-André Bédard. “For one simple reason : the prime minister was confident that those three people. It was a level of trust very, very high, ” says Martine Tremblay. “The human factor becomes extremely important,” adds the ex-head of cabinet and senior civil servant.
To counter the adverse effects of the “bubble,” Martine Tremblay prescribed to any prime minister to take the pulse of the caucus. To get out of the ” crazy side and completely delirious of the crisis “, the assistance of government members is valuable. “It is them who are closest to the land, people, needs. “
The power of solitude
At certain moments, loneliness is still the best of counsellors. The ex-director of communications Philippe Couillard, Charles Robert, is reminded of the isolation that his boss had imposed on the night of the attack at the mosque of Quebec, after a press conference given at two o’clock in the morning. Only, the prime minister had written the speech that he pronounced the next day and in which he condemned a ” terrorist act “.
“It’s going to be a part of the history of the mandate of Philippe Couillard, this event. Like the COVID-19 will be part of the history of the term of office of Mr. Legault, ” says Mr. Robert, who is now the director of communications of the leader of the official opposition, Dominique Anglade. “I don’t know if they [the prime ministers] the intellectualisent at the time where they are, but I think [that solitude allows you to take the measure of his own place in history. “
Take a decision alone — or almost — is not without risk. “At any given time, it is necessary that someone decides for the government. Otherwise, the people, when they are not satisfied with a decision of a prime minister, they have no choice but to resign, leaving the party, to found another party. It happens, that, too, ” says Nicole Stafford.
Charles Robert draws the same conclusion. “The commitment that he [Philippe Couillard] took the next day [for the attack on the mosque], it was hers. It was his own feelings. But it is what is going to happen after. How it will register in the public debate. Of course, after, you know… “, let-t-he fall.
After the attack on the mosque, the government Couillard has decided to hold a commission on systemic racism, before retreating in the face of popular pressure. The defeat of the liberal Party of Quebec in the riding of Louis-Hébert has followed, giving a boost to the Coalition avenir Québec… up to the general elections of October 2018.
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Ce text is part of our “Outlook” section.