December 11, 2023

La Ronge Northerner

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Women and children first

Women and children first

The story behind François Legault’s jump into politics in 1998 begins in a school.

His sons Xavier and Victor attended the Externat Mont-Jésus-Marie courtyard.

Two other little boys wear chairs at this private school in Outremont: Alexandre and Simon Bouchard, son of Lucien Bouchard, then prime minister of Quebec.

Legault and Bouchard didn’t know each other yet. Their wives were the first to become friends: Isabel Price and Audrey Best, who died of cancer in 2011.

They exchange a few words during the daily ritual of parents picking up their children after school. They cross paths during operation. Polite expressions lead to confidence.

One fine day, Isabel Price tells Audrey Best that her husband has “sold his business” and is “in a period of retrospection, of reflection.”

She did not test the waters for her husband, aiming for a career far away from politics. She didn’t know what was going to happen next and it would soon make her cry.

Photo by Bernard Brault, La Presse Archives

Lucien Bouchard and his wife Audrey Best, in 2000

But Lucien Bouchard says in an interview that these words spoken that day are the inspiration for François Legault’s political adventure.

“Vachon Cupcakes”

François Legault is on a “reorientation” following his sudden and controversial decision in 1997.

Due to disagreements with his partners, he left Air Transat and sold his shares without notice.

The native of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, from a modest background, achieved her goal of being independent by the age of 40. He is 39 years old. Pres He wrote that he could have pocketed about $14 million if he had sold his shares at the time.

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François Legault sits on a board of eight directors – including Provigo, Culinar, Bestar and Chico – but he is ripe for a new challenge.

“I was looking at the possibility of buying a Quebec company with the Caisse de dépôt,” said François Legault. Pres Thursday. Which company? “I can tell you today… it’s Kulan, so Vachon cakes,” he reveals. The now century-old company swung to Mexican interests in 2014 after several steps over the years to maintain Quebec ownership.

Photo by Edward Plant-Freshette, La Presse Archives

François Legault did not publicly express his sovereign faith before entering politics.

But François Legault also had an interest in public affairs. know that. His sovereign confidence, at this time, is low; He communicates it privately only to a select few. He hid it out of respect for his employees at Air Transat, he would later say.

“When I left Air Transat, it was clear in my head that I wasn’t going to play golf for the rest of my life, and I wasn’t chasing politics,” Mr. Legault added.

“Enrich” the PQ group

Audrey Best tells her husband what Isabel Price told her. Lucien Bouchard thought to himself, “Perhaps there will be someone for politics.”

“His profile is interesting,” explains the former prime minister.

“He’s an HEC graduate, an accountant by training with a successful business career. And he’s still young. I thought it was a great acquisition. »

There is an alignment of the stars. Lucien Bouchard is looking precisely to “enrich” his team in anticipation of the general elections. He wants to recruit businessmen, a rare commodity in the Parti Québécois.

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The former prime minister does not remember the exact moment and circumstances of his team’s first contact with François Legault. But at the same time, he remembers, “Jean-Francois Lissy enters the scene.”