Michel Clair

Michel Clair (born June 16, 1950) is an administrator and former politician in the Canadian province of Quebec. He was a Parti Québécois member of the National Assembly of Quebec from 1976 to 1985 and served as a cabinet minister in the governments of René Lévesque and Pierre-Marc Johnson. Clair later became an executive administrator with Hydro-Québec.

Early life and career

Clair was born in Saint-Germain-de-Grantham and received his early education in that community and in Montreal, Quebec. He later earned a law degree from the Université de Sherbrooke and was called to the bar of Quebec in 1974. He worked as a legal aid lawyer in Drummondville from 1974 to 1976 and earned a master's degree in criminology from the Université de Montréal. Clair also wrote for a local newspaper and appeared on the radio station CHRD-FM.[1]


Clair was elected to the Quebec legislature in the 1976 provincial election for the division of Drummond. The Parti Québécois won a majority government in this election, and Clair entered the legislature as a backbench supporter of René Lévesque's government. On May 17, 1979, he was promoted to parliamentary assistant to the minister of consumer affairs, cooperatives and financial institutions.[2] At the time, he was the youngest cabinet minister in Quebec history.[3]

Cabinet minister

Revenue minister

Clair joined the Lévesque cabinet as revenue minister on September 21, 1979.[4] In late 1980, he announced that Quebec would stop charging the provincial sales tax on advertising flyers in newspapers. He explained that neighbouring provinces did not tax the flyers, and that Quebec's printing industry had accordingly been at a disadvantage.[5]

Transport minister

Clair was re-elected in the 1981 provincial election and was shifted to the position of transport minister on April 30, 1981.[6] He completed an agreement with federal minister Jean-Luc Pepin the same June to modernize commuter transit in the Montreal area.[7] The following month, however, he criticized the federal government for cancelling some regional train services and said that the closures would not have been necessary if proposed upgrades had been made five years earlier.[8] In November 1981, Clair announced an appeal to the Federal Court of Canada to stop the federal government's planned cutbacks.[9]

In February 1982, Clair introduced legislation stipulating that all persons in the front seat of a moving vehicle be required to wear a seatbelt; taxi drivers, police, and young children had previously been exempted.[10] He later introduced restrictions on the use of government planes by cabinet ministers.[11] In May 1982, he announced that Quebec would end its use of bilingual stop signs by 1987, leaving only the French word "arrêt" on the famous octagonal red sign.[12]

Clair took part in negotiations in 1982–83 to save the financially troubled Quebecair, North America's only French-language airline. He reached an agreement in principle with Ontario transport minister James Snow in August 1982 that would have seen a merger of Nordair and Quebecair with involvement from Air Ontario.[13] The federal government rejected this plan and instead suggested replacing Quebecair with a new service co-owned by Air Canada and the Quebec government.[14] Clair ultimately declined this proposal and announced in June 1983 that the Quebec government would take over and restructure the airline. This was not intended as a nationalization; Clair said that he hoped private investors would manage the company.[15]

Clair strongly criticized the Canadian National Railway's decision in 1983 to shift its administrative offices for trucking and express services from Montreal to Toronto.[16]

Treasury Board President

After a cabinet shuffle on March 5, 1984, Clair was named as president of the treasury board and minister responsible for administration. In early 1985, he introduced new labour legislation that cut the right of public-sector workers to strike over money issues, established a joint labour-management committee to study economic conditions and pay increases, and decentralized some aspects of bargaining to reflect local conditions.[17] Quebec Federation of Labour president Louis Laberge and other labour leaders opposed some aspects of the bill, particularly the restrictions on the right to strike.[18] The Lévesque government passed the legislation after invoking closure on debate.[19]

Clair announced in March 1985 that Quebec would spend $27.4 billion in the 1985–86 fiscal year, an increase of 5.7 per cent over the previous year.[20]

Internal PQ crisis

In 1984, the Parti Québécois went through an internal crisis over its support for Quebec sovereignty. Some leading party figures, including René Lévesque, wanted to moderate the party's position, while others favoured a more hardline stance in support of Quebec independence Clair sided with the moderates. When delegates at a party conference voted to tie the PQ to a hardline indépendantiste stand in the next provincial election, Clair quipped that he had "never seen turkeys so eager for Christmas."[21]

The PQ's divisions continued until November 1984, when several indépendantiste hardliners resigned from the government. Clair served as acting minister of social affairs from November 27 to November 29, replacing one of the departed ministers until a full-time replacement was found.[22]

Treasury Board/Energy and Resources

René Lévesque resigned as Parti Québécois leader and premier in June 1985, and Clair supported Pierre-Marc Johnson's successful bid to become the party's new leader.[23] Johnson became premier in October 1985 and announced a cabinet shuffle on October 17, keeping Clair in the treasury board portfolio and giving him extra responsibilities as minister of energy and resources.[24] On November 11, Clair approved almost two million dollars in mining exploration grants for seven companies.[25]

The Parti Québécois lost the 1985 provincial election to the Quebec Liberal Party, and Clair was defeated in Drummond by the narrow margin of 102 votes. He formally resigned from cabinet with the rest of the Johnson ministry on December 12, 1985.[26]

Out of government

After the 1985 election, Clair worked as chief of staff to Pierre-Marc Johnson in the latter's role as leader of the official opposition. He resigned in December 1986 for what he described as "purely personal reasons."[27] Clair later served as leader of the Quebec Association of Nursing Homes from 1987 to 1994; in September 1989, he described as strike by hospital and health-care workers as "unthinkable" in terms of its effects on elderly residents.[28]

Clair traveled to Romania with a Montreal television crew in late 1989 to record a series of reports on the status of the country's minority Hungarian community. One of these reports included a clandestine interview with László Tőkés, who was arrested shortly after the broadcast took place. Tőkés's arrest helped trigger the 1989 Romanian revolution, and some have suggested that Clair's interview played a significant role in provoking the latter event.[29]

Clair became president of the venture capital firm Fondel Drummond in 1990.[30]

Deputy minister and Hydro-Quebec administrator

The Parti Québécois were returned to office with a majority government under Jacques Parizeau's leadership in the 1994 provincial election. Clair was not a candidate in the election but was appointed as deputy minister of energy and resources on November 28, 1994. By virtue of this position, he also served on the board of Hydro-Quebec.[31] He resigned as deputy minister on May 5, 1997, to become executive vice-president of Hydro-Quebec's international affairs and projects group as well as president and chief executive officer of Hydro-Quebec International.[32]

In September 1997, Clair announced that a new company co-owned by Hydro-Quebec would undertake a partnership with Pan American Enterprises to create a network of compressed natural gas stations in Mexico.[33] He later helped negotiate deals for Hydro-Quebec in countries such as China, Peru, Costa Rica, Panama, and Senegal.[34] He stood down as president of Hydro-Quebec International in late 1999.[35]

Health services

Clair was appointed by the government of Quebec to chair a commission on health and social services in 2000. While the commission held its hearings, some critics charged that Clair was biased in favour of privatization; he rejected this charge.[36] Clair's report was submitted in January 2001, and its recommendations included an increased role for the private sector in health delivery, user fees on items such as meals and laundry for hospital patients, the guaranteed access of all Quebeckers to a family doctor, and the creation of a new publicly funded insurance plan to support treatment for disabled elderly persons. The report also suggested that some aspects of the Canada Health Act were outdated and led to unequal services; one example provided was that all doctor's visits were covered, while home care was not.[37]

Clair later co-chaired a follow-up review of health services with Claude Castonguay, commissioned by the newspaper La Presse. This report also recommended restructuring the health system.[38]

Clair became president of the Sedna Health Group Inc. in 2001.[39] In 2009, he joined the advisory board of Barrett Xplore.[40]

Electoral record

1985 Quebec general election: Drummond
Party Candidate Votes%±%
LiberalJean-Guy St-Roch16,58447.93
Parti QuébécoisMichel Clair16,48247.64
     Progressive Conservative Pauline Fecteau 947 2.74
  New Democratic Party Michel Parenteau 585 1.69
Total valid votes 34,598 100.00
Rejected and declined votes 391
Turnout 34,989 79.85
Electors on the lists 43,817
1981 Quebec general election: Drummond
Party Candidate Votes%±%
Parti QuébécoisMichel Clair19,35955.31
LiberalCharles-Auguste Desrochers13,44838.42
Union NationaleAlain Chapdelaine2,0996.00
Marxist–LeninistJean-Pierre Ginchereau950.27
Total valid votes 35,001 100.00
Rejected and declined votes 346
Turnout 35,347 84.44
Electors on the lists 41,862
1976 Quebec general election: Drummond
Party Candidate Votes%±%
Parti QuébécoisMichel Clair14,60542.45
Union NationaleRoger Blais8,21123.87
LiberalPaul Delisle7,77822.61
Ralliement créditisteAndré Bergeron3,60110.47
Parti national populaireArmand Joyal2110.61
Total valid votes 34,406 100.00
Rejected and declined votes 506
Turnout 34,912 89.05
Electors on the lists 39,205
  • "Biography". Dictionnaire des parlementaires du Québec de 1792 à nos jours (in French). National Assembly of Quebec.


  1. "Biography". Dictionnaire des parlementaires du Québec de 1792 à nos jours (in French). National Assembly of Quebec.
  2. "Biography". Dictionnaire des parlementaires du Québec de 1792 à nos jours (in French). National Assembly of Quebec.
  3. Elizabeth Thompson, "Young gun in Quebec City: Boisclair's role belies his background," Montreal Gazette, 3 June 1996, A1. This source wrongly identifies Clair as a Liberal
  4. Ian Rodger, "Ex-minister Tremblay blasts Levesque," Globe and Mail, 22 September 1979, p. 11.
  5. "Sales tax," Globe and Mail, 17 December 1980, B6.
  6. "Levesque ignores two anglophones in Cabinet shuffle," Globe and Mail, 1 May 1981, p. 8.
  7. "Quebec transit to be updated," Globe and Mail, 27 June 1981, p. 11.
  8. "Lack of federal foresight ruining rail, minister says," Globe and Mail, 30 July 1981, p. 8.
  9. "Stop Via Rail cutbacks, Quebec asks Federal Court," Globe and Mail, 11 November 1981, p. 12.
  10. "Seatbelt law tightened up in Quebec," Globe and Mail, 13 February 1982, p. 14.
  11. "PQ toughens travel rules for ministers," Globe and Mail, 3 March 1982, p. 10; Margot Gibb-Clark, "Despite tough spending cuts, Quebec braced for big deficit," Globe and Mail, 24 May 1982, p. 3.
  12. "Quebec Calling a Halt To English Stop Sign," New York Times, 14 May 1982.
  13. David Stewart-Patterson, "Quebec, Ontario airlines plan merger," Globe and Mail, 10 August 1982, B1.
  14. David Stewart-Patterson, "Ottawa wants new airline to replace Quebecair," Globe and Mail, 23 November 1982, B1; Wendie Kerr, "Rejection by Ottawa of merger of airlines puzzles SID president," Globe and Mail, 24 November 1982, B5.
  15. Wendie Kerr and Margot Gibb-Clark, "Quebecair taken over by province," Globe and Mail, 22 June 1983, B1; Margot Gibb-Clark, "Change of face for the summer," Globe and Mail, 27 June 1983, p. 8.
  16. "CN planning to merge 2 units' administration," Globe and Mail, 17 June 1982, B12.
  17. "Closure used to cut debate on service bill," Globe and Mail, 15 June 1985, p. 12.
  18. "Labor troubles loom: unions," Globe and Mail, 31 January 1985, p. 8; "Quebec labor protests against anti-strike bill," Globe and Mail, 4 February 1985, p. 5.
  19. "Closure used to cut debate on service bill," Globe and Mail, 15 June 1985, p. 12.
  20. Graham Fraser, "Auto crash costs shifted to insurance fund Quebec spending set at $27.4 billion," Globe and Mail, 20 March 1985, p. 4.
  21. Graham Fraser and Margot Gibb-Clark, "Levesque swallows reservations on sovereignty stand," Globe and Mail, 11 June 1984, p. 1.
  22. Graham Fraser and Margot Gibb-Clark, "Levesque patches Cabinet holes as sixth minister quits," Globe and Mail, 28 November 1984.
  23. Daniel Drolet, "Caucus support is leaning heavily towards Johnson," Montreal Gazette, 16 July 1985, A4.
  24. "Premier responsible for second portfolio," Globe and Mail, 17 October 1985, A5.
  25. Andrew McIntosh, "Quebec ridings given $140 million by PQ gravy train," Globe and Mail, 2 December 1985, A4.
  26. "Biography". Dictionnaire des parlementaires du Québec de 1792 à nos jours (in French). National Assembly of Quebec.
  27. "PQ chief of staff leaving his post," Globe and Mail, 10 December 1986, A4.
  28. Robert McKenzie and Nancy Wood, "Cabinet recalled as Quebec braces for massive strike by civil servants," Toronto Star, 6 September 1989, A3; Andre Picard, "Bourassa asks public to help in Quebec strike," Globe and Mail, 16 September 1989, A1.
  29. Therese Boyle, "Video made by Canadians may have influenced events," Toronto Star, 26 December 1989, A11; "LIBERAL LEADERSHIP CANDIDATE HEADS RALLY FOR PERSECUTED MINISTER IN ROMANIA," Canada NewsWire, 15 November 1989, 10:17. The leadership candidate was Tom Wappel, a Canadian of Hungarian background. Wappel and Clair appeared together at a benefit for Tőkés in Toronto, Ontario.
  30. "Biography". Dictionnaire des parlementaires du Québec de 1792 à nos jours (in French). National Assembly of Quebec.
  31. "Hydro-Quebec. Re Directorate," Regulatory News Service, 21 February 1995.
  32. Kathryn Leger, "Hydro-Quebec readies for foreign push," Financial Post, 16 April 1997, p. 11; "Michel Clair Appointed President And CEO Of Hydro-Quebec International," Canada NewsWire, 15 May 1997, 10:26.
  33. "Hydro-Quebec And Gaz De France In Global Joint Venture," Canada NewsWire, 29 September 1997, 14:30.
  34. "Hydro-Quebec International Undertakes a Hydro-Electric Project Worth $350 Million in China," PR Newswire, 4 November 1994, 7:17; "Hydro-Quebec International Signs A Cooperation Agreement With Northeast China Electricity Power Group And A Technical Assistance Contract," Canada NewsWire, 6 November 1997, 8:59; "Hydro-Quebec International Obtains An Important Contract Of $10-Million In China," Canada NewsWire, 11 November 1997, 06:17; "The Peruvian Government Awards A Contract Worth U.S$180 Million To Hydro-Quebec International (HQI) And The Societe D'Energie De La Baie James (Sebj)", Canada NewsWire, 16 January 1998, 13:05; "Panama generators sold to Enron, AES, Hydro-Quebec for $301-million total," Global Power Report, 27 November 1998, p. 15; "Hydro Quebec, Elyo selected to take 34% stake in Senegal electric utility," Global Power Report, 5 March 1999, p. 16; "Hydro-Quebec taps Chinese market; Company buys 20% stake in leading independent power producer," Globe and Mail, 9 July 1999, B5.
  35. "A New Stage in Hydro-Quebec's International Operations," Canada NewsWire, 29 September 1999, 18:31.
  36. Jane Davenport, "MDs' coalition shuns hearing: Consultations called sham," Montreal Gazette, 27 September 2000, A5.
  37. Rheal Seguin, "A panel of experts argues for a useful private-sector role as part of an urgent effort to update medical care," Globe and Mail, 18 January 2001, A4; Robert McKenzie, "Quebec takes on `old' Health Act --- Report calls for new look at legislation deemed `antiquated'," Toronto Star, 18 January 2001, p. 1.
  38. Andre Pratte, "More money won't save medicare" [editorial], National Post, 27 August 2004, A15.
  39. "The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal presents a seminar on Quebec's health care system," Canada NewsWire, 19 March 2009, 10:41.
  40. "Barrett Xplore Inc. expands its presence in Québec," Canada NewsWire, 12 August 2009, 09:00.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.