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Chevrette slips out the back door before shuffle (January 30, 2002)

QUEBEC CITY, Que. -- The Parti Quebecois government was shaken Tuesday by the resignations of three cabinet ministe...

QUEBEC CITY, Que. — The Parti Quebecois government was shaken Tuesday by the resignations of three cabinet ministers, including transport chief Guy Chevrette.

Chevrette, 62, and Jacques Brassard, 61, shocked the province Tuesday when they announced they were quitting politics immediately. Both were disappointed by what they say is a deliberate effort to encourage them to step aside to make way for a younger cabinet.

Later in the day a third minister quit after reportedly being excluded from the cabinet. David Cliche, who held a junior portfolio as minister responsible for the information highway, submitted his resignation, effective immediately.

Chevrette, who was also first elected in 1976, is also minister responsible for Native Affairs. He says the warning bells for this move were sounding last December, when he interpreted PQ vice-president Marie Malavoy’s call for a more youthful cabinet as a signal for Landry to ‘encourage’ his veteran ministers to leave.

This was a fine thank-you for a minister who rescued the party from self-destruction in 1987. Chevrette played a key role in avoiding a major split after a divisive internal debate concluded with the resignation of former PQ leader Pierre-Marc Johnson.

Chevrette says he isn’t bitter, although he is upset with the people in Landry’s entourage who wanted him to quit after a number of recent controversial remarks. He was also angry Landry, who turns 65 in March, has sent a clear message that people over 60 bring nothing of value to the party.

“You can be 60 and still be full of ideas and have plenty of energy to tackle a bunch of issues,” slams Chevrette. “Age isn’t what determines whether you are ready to meet a challenge, whether you have the capacity to meet that challenge.”

The resignations fulfill Landry’s aspiration of finally putting his stamp on a government he took over from Lucien Bouchard less than a year ago.

However, the departures also complicate Landry’s political calendar. Quebec law requires by-elections be held within six months of the resignations. If a general election is called before a by-election vote, it immediately nullifies the by-election.

Even more PQ MNAs are expected to quit politics in the coming months and Landry will face the difficult choice of proceeding with a number of by-elections at the end of the summer or calling a general election. The PQ is currently trailing the Liberals by seven percentage points, according to the latest public opinion poll.

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