Ungava’s CAQ candidate senses the winds of change

Stéphane Robichaud: “An election is a choice”


Stéphane Robichaud is the candidate for the Coalition Avenir Québec in the riding of Ungava, which includes Nunavik. (PHOTO COURTESY OF S. ROBICHAUD)

Stéphane Robichaud is the candidate for the Coalition Avenir Québec in the riding of Ungava, which includes Nunavik. (PHOTO COURTESY OF S. ROBICHAUD)

With support for the upstart Coalition Avenir Québec party at 27 per cent, according to a recent Léger poll — that is, only four percentage points behind the governing Liberal party and five points behind the Parti Québécois, there’s a candidate in the Ungava riding that includes Nunavik who thinks he has a real chance of winning in the Sept. 4 Quebec election: Stéphane Robichaud.

Robichaud points to the results of last May’s federal election, when the New Democratic Party took the Abitibi-James Bay-Nunavik-Eeyou riding, which had long been held by the Bloc Québécois.

Now, Ungava voters are looking at the PQ, which has held the riding for years, and at the Liberals, who lost it by a margin of about 1,000 votes, and they’re not impressed with the “two old parties,” Robichaud said in a recent interview.

“There are winds of change,” Robichaud said of the feeling he senses in the riding.

Robichaud said his party, whose slogan is “Enough, vote for change!” is choosing candidates on their merit and expertise and not going “for people who know people” — a swipe at the Liberal candidate, Gérald Lemoyne, the well-connected longtime mayor of Lebel-sur-Quévillon.

But, like the PQ and Liberal candidates in Ungava, Robichaud hopes voters in Nunavik get out and vote Sept. 4.

“Speak, or else there’s no point,” said Robichaud, adding that you can’t complain about your representation in the National Assembly if you don’t vote. “An election is a choice.”

It’s no wonder that Inuit in Nunavik say they sometimes feel ignored by Premier Jean Charest’s Liberals, Robichaud said. That’s because they need to make themselves heard.

As it stands now, if people don’t vote, “they can’t make him win or lose.”

Ungava had the lowest voter turnout rate in Quebec in 2008 with 36.08 per cent, compared with 46.47 per cent in 2007.

Robichaud, a chartered accountant who speaks fluent English, has more than a passing acquaintance with Nunavik, where he worked as an accountant with Pratte Bélanger in many communities.

Kuujjuaraapik, Puvirnituq, Umiujaq are among the communities visited by Robichaud, who now runs a business start-up firm in the Montreal south shore suburb of La Prairie.

His enduring impression of Nunavik: the high cost of everything, and particularly of food, which is “so expensive that it’s impossible to buy.”

That and improvements to Plan Nord would be on his list of items to focus on if elected.

Development can’t be stopped, Robichaud said, but you can tell people how to do it and when to stop and clean up.

And he’d like to see it be Plan Nord become a plan for the development of everyone in the region.

In its position statements, the CAQ — formed only last November — promises to reduce Quebec’s massive long-term debt and to reinvigorate the province’s sluggish economy by promoting entrepreneurship, education and greater efficiencies in government.

François Legault, the former PQ minister who now heads the CAQ, has also called for a longer school day for high school students.

But here’s something he won’t support: another referendum on Quebec sovereignty, which the PQ still supports.

“I thought for a certain number of years that sovereignty was the right thing to do,” Legault told reporters earlier this month.

But now he wouldn’t vote “yes” for sovereignty, said Legault, who has since picked up some endorsements from anglophone leaders.

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