MONTREAL — The president and CEO of Quebec's hydro utility announced on Tuesday she will step down on April 11 after less than three years on the job.
In a letter sent to Hydro-Québec employees, Sophie Brochu did not give a reason for leaving before the end of her five-year mandate but said it was time to “pass the baton.”
“I’m extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to work toward the advancement of this great government corporation as part of such a competent and committed team,” Brochu said in a separate news release.
Brochu noted that her arrival at the utility coincided with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The economic situation was worrisome, and I felt compelled to step forward, humbly believing that I could be of service as Quebec navigated through the turbulence," she said.
"Today, the worst of the pandemic is behind us, and Hydro-Québec is in a strong position: we have developed a strategic plan that charts the way for Quebec’s energy transition, and our financial situation is excellent.”
The Crown corporation’s board of directors thanked Brochu for her contributions and said the utility would meet with employees on Tuesday afternoon.
A person at Hydro-Québec with knowledge of Brochu’s plans but who was not authorized to speak publicly said her departure has nothing to do with her relationship with the government of Premier François Legault. They said Brochu has not received another job offer, nor was she resigning for health reasons, adding that she is in “great shape.”
In recent months, Quebec’s Economy and Energy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon has denied rumours that he had a strained relationship with Brochu, who was president of Gaz Métro — now Énergir — before joining Hydro-Québec in April 2020.
Following the Oct. 3 election, Legault expanded Fitzgibbon's portfolio and gave the minister the energy file, leading to suggestions the government wanted to play a larger role in determining Hydro-Québec's direction. In response, the union representing engineers at the public utility felt the need to publicly state its unreserved support for Brochu and ask that the government not intervene in the energy-transition strategy tabled by Hydro-Québec senior management.
On Tuesday, Fitzgibbon praised Brochu and said he was certain she would continue to be a trailblazer.
Legault tweeted his thanks to Brochu and said it had been a pleasure working with her on major projects crucial to the province’s future, referencing the utility’s $30-billion hydro-export agreement with New York and the development of the wind energy power sector in Quebec.
Brochu was appointed to a five-year term starting April 2, 2020, at an annual base salary of $580,000.
Under provincial law, the Quebec cabinet will appoint the new Hydro-Québec president and CEO.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 10, 2023.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Stéphane Rolland, The Canadian Press