PQ leadership hopeful Sylvain Gaudreault says Quebecers ready for a gay premier

SAGUENAY, Que. — The first person to emerge as a leadership hopeful for the Parti Quebecois says he believes Quebecers are ready to elect a gay premier.

Sylvain Gaudreault made the comments Monday as he formally announced his candidacy in front of about 100 supporters, including former PQ ministers and members of the legislature, in his riding north of Quebec City.

Gaudreault, who is openly gay, says Quebecers are respectful and open to him.

His entry into the political leadership fray comes one day after Liberal leadership hopeful Dominique Anglade told reporters her Haitian roots wouldn't be an issue for Quebecers, who've moved on from such discussions.

Gaudreault, 49, says that first and foremost, Quebecers ask themselves other questions about the worthiness of a political leader, including: Are they responsible? Are they credible? Can they deliver?

He says voters in the province are more concerned with the climate crisis and a connection to the regions outside major centres.

"As for the rest, private life, the people of Quebec are very respectful of this. So certainly, Quebecers are ready to elect a gay premier," Gaudreault — who has been re-elected in his riding of Jonquiere since 2007 — told reporters.

The PQ leadership has been vacant since the resignation of Jean-Francois Lisee on election night in October 2018.

Gaudreault has made his position on sovereignty clear by expressing his wish that Quebec becomes the first country in the world to join the United Nations with a green economy.

He had tested interest in the leadership post during a PQ convention in Trois-Rivieres in November, and has already held the position of interim leader once before. Between May and October 2016, he replaced media mogul Pierre Karl Peladeau at the party helm.

The next leader of the PQ will be chosen in 2020, with the race rules to be determined by early next year.

Gaudreault, currently the party's environment and health critic, served as minister of transport and municipal for Pauline Marois' minority government between 2012 and 2014.

He was the only PQ to hold onto his seat in the nationalist Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, the rest of which went to Premier Francois Legault's Coalition Avenir Quebec.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2019.

Patrice Bergeron, The Canadian Press