MONTREAL – Philippe Couillard has announced plans to seek a Quebec legislative seat in a byelection nine months after he was chosen Quebec Liberal leader.
Couillard faces a near-certain victory in the Montreal riding of Outremont — because it’s a Liberal fortress, and because the biggest other parties have promised not to run candidates against him in the Dec. 9 vote.
His principal opponents have wanted Couillard in the chamber for months, as he maintained relatively unblemished poll numbers while avoiding the legislative fray.
Couillard had resisted such calls, saying he planned to run in the Lac-St-Jean region — not only because he lives there now, but also because he wants to prove Quebec Liberals can win in the francophone heartland far from Montreal.
He also planned to spend a few months rebuilding the organization of his Liberal party, whose reputation and fundraising efforts were battered by successive scandals.
That stand-back approach became untenable as Couillard’s opponents pressed him to run, and the pressure mounted when resignations prompted two December byelections.
The Liberals remained at, or near, the top of the polls as the day-to-day leader’s duties were handled inside the national assembly by Jean-Marc Fournier, a onetime justice minister and former aide to ex-federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.
Couillard last held a seat from 2003 to 2007, when he was health minister.