Raymond Bachand, architect of tuition hikes, enters Quebec Liberal leadership race

MONTREAL – The race to succeed Jean Charest has its first prominent participant as a former finance minister joined the Quebec Liberal leadership contest Friday.

Raymond Bachand, who until recently was the province’s finance minister, announced his entry at a news conference. Several prominent MNAs spoke at the podium to introduce him.

Bachand’s participation could add some ideological spice to the race.

He was the architect of the province’s tuition hikes — which were heavily supported by small-c conservatives but were bitterly opposed by progressives and have now been cancelled by the new Parti Quebecois government.

Bachand will face stiff competition as it is all but certain that Philippe Couillard, a popular former health minister, will enter the race as the potential front-runner.

It remains to be seen whether the party’s federalist grassroots will hold Bachand’s past against him; back in his early 30s he was a prominent figure in the PQ during the 1980 independence referendum.

Bachand sought to reassure Liberals that he is a committed member of the federalist family. Accompanying him at the event Friday was the widow of the late former premier Robert Bourassa.

He also spoke about his attachment to Canada. He said Quebecers had helped shape the country and that it was part of their heritage.

“I’m proud to be a Quebecer,” he said, “but I’m also proud to be a Canadian.”