Ouimet quits

Fabre MNA improved ordinary Quebecers’ access to justice

By Robert Frank

The man who has represented the western Laval riding of Fabre for the past three years is throwing in the towel.

Gilles Ouimet announced, Aug. 24, that he intends to quit politics.

Ouimet sent a resignation letter to National Assembly Speaker Jacques Chagnon, explaining that he would like to improve his “work-family balance.”

In the letter, he indicated that he had explained his personal situation to the legislature’s ethics commissioner Jacques St. Laurent, the details of which will remain confidential.

As this week’s edition of The Suburban went to press, the usually voluble Ouimet was unavailable for an interview.

“We received some directives and he is not taking any interviews for the moment concerning his resignation,” political attaché Walter V. Calderón said in an interview.

Calderón explained that Ouimet was reticent because his resignation was not yet official.

“He sent the resignation letter by mail but, to make it official, he needs some signatures and he has to present the original letter to the speaker,” Calderón said. “I’m not sure when that will be done.”

The delay sparked speculation of ongoing backroom negotiations. The Couillard government was stung by Ouimet’s departure, as well recent

resignation of other high-profile MNAs like Marguerite Blais.

Ouimet, the former head of the Quebec Bar Association, was clearcut cabinet material and had been widely mooted to become the province’s Justice Minister after the April 7, 2014 election. Instead, he languished on the government backbenches since the Liberals swept Laval in last year’s provincial election.

Couillard instead appointed Mille Îles MNA Francine Charbonneau to serve as Family Minister in the Quebec cabinet. Ouimet’s central role in Pierre Moreau’s campaign against Couillard for the Liberal leadership might have been a factor in bypassing Ouimet. However, Charbonneau, was also a Moreau supporter.

In addition, Couillard double-hatted Charbonneau as the minister responsible for Laval, leaving Ouimet as well as Laval’s four other MNAs outside the cabinet.

In contrast, a dozen members of the Couillard cabinet represent ridings on the Island of Montreal.

After Fabre residents elected him to represent them in Quebec City in 2012, Ouimet spoke in the National Assembly on behalf of the then Liberal opposition on a number of justice issues.

Couillard subsequently tossed Ouimet the values charter hot potato, leaving it to the Fabre MNA to map out the Liberal position on one of Quebec’s thorniest issues.

Despite the lack of a cabinet appointment, Ouimet did help improve ordinary Quebecers’ access to justice during his tenure. In Oct. 2014, he used his powers of persuasion to get the province’s politicians of all stripes to fast track a boost in the amount individuals can claim in small claims courts from $7,000 to $15,000.

Meanwhile, the Quebec Bar Association, which represents some 25,000 Quebec lawyers, is enduring its own leadership crisis. On July 1, it removed Ouimet’s successor, Lu Chan Khuong from her position as batonnière, after allegations that she had been caught shoplifting at a Simons clothing store in Laval came to light.

On Friday, Quebec Superior Court Justice Michel Beaupré declined to reinstate her as head of the Quebec Bar, leaving a leadership void that Ouimet would be well-placed to fill.

140404 Gilles Ouimet 2

Despite not being tipped for cabinet post, Gilles Ouimet leaves lasting legacy.

(Photo © Robert Frank)

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