|Minister of Canadian Intergovernmental Affairs (Quebec)
Also styled as the Minister responsible for Francophone Canadians from 18 February 2005, and the Minister for the Agreement on Internal Trade from 17 March 2005, to 18 April 2007.
29 April 2003 – 18 December 2008
|Preceded by||Jean-Pierre Charbonneau|
|Succeeded by||Jacques Dupuis|
|Minister of Aboriginal Affairs
Styled as Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs from 2007 to 2008.
29 April 2003 – 18 February 2005
|Preceded by||Rémy Trudel and Michel Létourneau|
|Succeeded by||Geoffrey Kelley|
18 April 2007 – 18 December 2008
|Preceded by||Geoffrey Kelley|
|Succeeded by||Pierre Corbeil|
|Leader of the Government in Parliament|
18 April 2007 – 5 November 2008
|Preceded by||Jacques Dupuis|
|Succeeded by||Jacques Dupuis|
|Minister responsible for the reform of democratic institutions
Also styled as the Minister responsible for Access to Information from 17 March 2005.
18 February 2005 – 18 December 2008
|Preceded by||Jacques Dupuis|
|Succeeded by||Jacques Dupuis|
|Minister responsible for the Outaouais|
29 April 2003 – 18 December 2008
|Preceded by||Sylvain Simard|
|Succeeded by||Norman MacMillan|
|Member of the National Assembly of Quebec for Chapleau|
30 November 1998 – 5 November 2008
|Preceded by||Claire Vaive|
|Succeeded by||Marc Carrière|
10 January 1960 |
Quebec City, Quebec
Benoît Pelletier (born 10 January 1960) is lawyer, academic, and politician in the Canadian province of Quebec. He was a Liberal member of the National Assembly of Quebec from 1998 to 2008 and was a prominent cabinet minister in the government of Jean Charest. He is best known for promoting the concept of "asymmetric federalism," wherein Quebec nationalism may be incorporated into a decentralized Canadian federal structure.
Early life and career
Pelletier received a law degree from Université Laval in 1981 and was admitted to the Barreau du Québec the following year. He later earned a Master's Degree in law from the University of Ottawa (1989) and doctorates in law from the University of Paris I: Panthéon-Sorbonne (1996) and the Université Paul Cézanne Aix-Marseille III (2000).
Pelletier was a legal adviser at the Canadian Department of Justice from 1983 to 1990, when he received a faculty position at the University of Ottawa. He taught there for several years and was recognized as professor of the year in 1998. He also authored several works on constitutional law and was often interviewed as an expert on the subject in the 1990s.
Pelletier was first elected to the National Assembly of Quebec in the 1998 provincial election, winning the safe Liberal seat of Chapleau in the Outaouais region. The Parti Québécois (PQ) won a majority government in this election, and Pelletier entered the legislature as an opposition member. In January 1999, Liberal leader Jean Charest appointed him to the high-profile post of critic for Intergovernmental Affairs.
After his appointment, Pelletier was commissioned to lead a comprehensive review of the Liberal Party's constitutional platform. Two years later, he brought forward a policy document entitled, Quebec's Choice: Affirmation, Autonomy and Leadership. Its highlights included a call for the Canadian Constitution to recognize the "specificity" of Quebec; a requirement that judges consider this "specificity" when ruling on charter rights cases that affect Quebec government policy; a provincial veto over constitutional changes; greater provincial autonomy over international affairs, telecommunications, and the environment; and the creation of a new council for overseeing federal-provincial issues. This document marked a shift away from former Liberal premier Robert Bourassa's definition of Quebec as a "distinct society," and Pelletier acknowledged that his party was taking a more "pro-Canada" stance than in past years. He said, "what [Quebecers] want above all is to say [...] that they want to be Canadians, but in their own way." Quebec's Choice helped launch Jean Charest's drive to create the Council of the Federation, and Pelletier has sometimes been recognized as the council's chief architect.
Pelletier very critical of the approach taken by Jean Chrétien's federal government in fighting Quebec sovereigntism. During the period of the Gomery inquiry, he remarked that the sponsorship scandal was caused by figures in the Canadian government who believed that "with money you could change the view of the population."
When the Chrétien government introduced the Clarity Act in 2000, the PQ government in Quebec responded with a bill proclaiming Quebec's right to self-determination. While Pelletier opposed the Clarity Act, he also led the Liberal Party's opposition to the latter bill, which he argued was the prelude to a new referendum on sovereignty. He did, however, introduce a motion in the national assembly recognizing Quebec's right to declare independence if the Canadian government did not negotiate in good faith after a sovereigntist victory in a future referendum. (The motion itself was not an endorsement of independence.)
The Liberal Party won a majority government in the 2003 Quebec general election, and Pelletier was returned by an increased margin in Chapleau. On 29 April 2003, he was appointed to the Charest cabinet as minister of Canadian Intergovernmental Affairs and minister of Aboriginal Affairs as well as minister responsible for the Outaouais.
On 18 February 2005, he was relieved of his responsibilities for Aboriginal Affairs and given new responsibilities for Francophone Canadians and the reform of democratic institutions. From 17 March 2005, he was also styled as the minister responsible for the Agreement on Internal Trade and the minister responsible for Access to Information.
Pelletier was returned by a reduced margin in the 2007 provincial election, as a surge in support for the Action démocratique du Québec reduced the Liberals to a minority government. Following a cabinet shuffle on 17 April 2007, Pelletier kept his existing ministerial designations (except for responsibility for the Agreement on Internal Trade) and was once again assigned to Aboriginal Affairs. He also became leader of the government in parliament.
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister
- 2003–06 (Chrétien and Martin governments)
Pelletier became Intergovernmental Affairs Minister near the end of Jean Chrétien's tenure as prime minister of Canada. Most of his interactions were with Chrétien's successors, Paul Martin and Stephen Harper.
Pelletier often defended Quebec's political jurisdiction against what he regarded as encroachments from the Canadian government. He spoke against Employment Insurance reforms introduced by the Martin government in 2004 and later criticized Martin's attempt to create a national child care plan with funds targeted to guidelines determined by federal government. (Quebec has had a provincial child care plan for several years.) Pelletier argued that provinces should be allowed to opt out of these and related federal plans and to set up alternative models with federal funding. Nothwithstanding their disagreements, Pelletier and his counterparts in the Canadian government completed a four-year deal on child care funding just before the Martin administration fell in late 2005.
Pelletier also supported Quebec's autonomy in the management of health care. In early 2005, he announced that the province would undertake a controversial experiment with some private health providers. While stressing that he supported the five principles of Canadian medicare and favoured the public system, he nonetheless called for "some adjustments that would allow participation for the private partners."
Pelletier also negotiated with the Martin government for Quebec to have a more autonomous role in international forums such as UNESCO, and for changes to the system of federal–provincial transfers (known to some as the fiscal imbalance). In late 2004, he wrote guest columns for the English-language Globe and Mail and National Post newspapers defending the principle of asymmetric federalism.
- 2006–08 (Harper government)
Pelletier initially welcomed the victory of Stephen Harper's Conservative Party in the 2006 federal election, saying that it created an opportunity "to improve Canada, to get a new vision of Canadian federalism, and to strengthen Quebec within Canada." After the election, Harper fulfilled a campaign pledge to give Quebec a seat at UNESCO. (Some, however, have noted that the provincial delegate cannot in practice take positions contrary to Canada's representative.)
In late 2006, Pelletier endorsed Harper's parliamentary motion to recognize that "the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada." He was more critical of Harper's efforts to reform the Canadian Senate, arguing that any significant changes would require negotiations with the provinces. Pelletier opposed Harper's efforts to reduce Quebec's percentage of seats in the Canadian House of Commons, saying that the proposed change would go to "the heart of balance in the federation."
After the Quebec Liberals were reduced to a minority government in 2007, Pelletier called for the Canadian government to recognize Quebec's distinctiveness in a "charter of open federalism" and to clarify its division of powers with the provinces. He later welcomed Harper's pledge for the federal government to end direct spending in areas of provincial jurisdiction.
Pelletier's approach to federal-provincial relations was often compared to former prime minister Brian Mulroney's failed Meech Lake Accord on constitutional reform. During most of his time in office, Pelletier said that the time was not right to reopen constitutional debates.
Minister of Aboriginal Affairs
Pelletier took part in negotiations with several indigenous communities during his time in government. He brought forward an agreement with Quebec's Inuit leaders in June 2003, to negotiate a new form of self-government. Four year later, he concluded an agreement in principle to create an Inuit-controlled government in the northernmost third of Quebec, answerable to the Quebec National Assembly.
Pelletier considered reopening a 2002 settlement with the Innu on the grounds that the agreement did not properly address concerns about Quebec's land and laws. He ultimately chose to accept the accord and said that he would seek to balance the rights of the Innu and non-indigenous people under its framework. He also took part in negotiations to resolve a 2004 crisis in the Mohawk community of Kanesatake, after violent confrontations that forced Grand Chief James Gabriel to leave the area.
Reform of democratic institutions
Pelletier supported the replacement of Quebec's first past the post electoral model with mixed member proportional representation. In 2006, he wrote an article in the Montreal Gazette defending the proposed new system. Three months later, he promised a bill on proportional representation before the next provincial election. In the same period, he also proposed financial incentives to political parties as a means of encouraging more female candidates and candidates from "ethnocultural minorities.".
In late 2007, Quebec's chief electoral officer issued a four hundred page document that was seen as endorsing the mixed-member proportional system. Notwithstanding Pelletier's efforts, no significant changes have been introduced to Quebec's electoral system as of 2012.
Francophone communities in Canada
In a departure from previous Quebec policy, Pelletier also sought to assist francophone minority communities in the rest of Canada. In August 2003, he announced $1.7 million for community projects across the country. In late 2006, he argued that continued support was necessary to prevent the assimilation of these communities into the English-speaking majority.
Pelletier opposed Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois's 2007 proposal that all new immigrants to Quebec be required to have a working knowledge of French before becoming citizens of the province. He described the suggestion as dangerous, saying it would create a new tier of second-class citizens.
Also in 2007, Pelletier contributed to a book entitled, Reconquerir le Canada: un nouveau projet pour la nation québécoise (English: Reconquering Canada: A New Project for the Quebec Nation). The volume was intended to promote and revitalize the federalist cause in Quebec.
Pelletier did not seek re-election in 2008 and instead returned to his position at the University of Ottawa. He is still frequently sought for commentary on Canadian constitutional matters. In June 2010, he called for Canadians to be more willing to discuss the constitution.
In October 2010, Pelletier published an extended essay titled, Une certaine idée du Québec. Parcours d'un fédéraliste. De la réflexion à l'action. Some have speculated that Pelletier may seek the leadership of the Quebec Liberal Party when Jean Charest retires.
|Quebec general election, 2007: Chapleau|
|Action démocratique||Jocelyn Dumais||8,071||24.92||+11.80|
|Parti Québécois||Edith Gendron||7,137||22.04||+0.40|
|Québec Solidaire||Jennifer Jean-Brice Vales||774||2.39||+1.29|
|Total valid votes||32,383||100.00|
|Rejected and declined votes||362|
|Electors on the lists||52,839|
|Quebec general election, 2003: Chapleau|
|Parti Québécois||Sylvie Simard||6,512||21.64|
|Action démocratique||Berthe Miron||3,949||13.12|
|Bloc Pot||Daniel Leblanc-Poirier||402||1.34|
|Total valid votes||30,090||100.00|
|Rejected and declined votes||280|
|Electors on the lists||51,741|
|Quebec general election, 1998: Chapleau|
|Parti Québécois||Claude Hallé||12,600||30.72|
|Action démocratique||Serge Charette||3,617||8.81|
|Socialist Democracy||Julie Lavoie||281||0.69|
|Natural Law||Jean-Claude Pommet||167||0.41|
|Total valid votes||41,012||100.00|
|Rejected and declined votes||456|
|Electors on the lists||58,194|
|Source: Official Results, Government of Quebec|
- Trudel was the Aboriginal Affairs minister in Bernard Landry's government; Létourneau was the junior minister. Pelletier was given the same official title as Létourneau, who was in that sense his "official" predecessor.
- "Biography". Dictionnaire des parlementaires du Québec de 1792 à nos jours (in French). National Assembly of Quebec.
- See for instance Robert Melnbardis, "Quebec separatist Bouchard set for premiership," Reuters News, 11 January 1996; Peter O'Neil, "Sovereignty issue needs tough stand," Kitchener-Waterloo Record, 29 January 1996, A7; Robert McKenzie, "Federal envoy ready to declare Quebec a nation," Toronto Star, 23 January 1997, A5; Robert Melnbardis, "Quebec's deficit battle angers separatist allies," Reuters News, 20 March 1997; Sean Fine and Tu Thanh Ha, "Quebec gets advocate it feared," Globe and Mail, 16 July 1997, A4; William Walker, "Court's timing stuns observers," Toronto Star, 18 August 1998, A1.
- Rhéal Séguin, "Quebec Liberals convene to rebuild," Globe and Mail, 20 January 1999, A4.
- Graeme Hamilton, "Charest pitches Meech-like deal," National Post, 17 January 2001, A1; Lysiane Gagnon, "The Liberals are awash in Meech," Globe and Mail, 21 May 2001, A11. See also Robert McKenzie, "Quebec seeks voice on cultural matters," 25 March 1999, p. 1; "Liberals review federalism," Globe and Mail, 16 April 1999, A7; Daniel LeBlanc, "Charest urges more tax points for provinces," Globe and Mail, 21 February 2000, A7.
- Rhéal Séguin, "His Quebec includes federalism," Globoe and Mail, 12 March 2001, A4.
- "Quebec Liberals drop distinct society clause from future constitutional talks," Canadian Press, 10 November 2001, 18:38.
- Les Perreaux, "Premiers see dawn of new era with Paul Martin as prime minister," Canadian Press, 23 October 2003, 23:10; "Canadian premiers have high hopes for new provincial, territorial forum," Canadian Press, 3 December 2003, 16:29; Richard Foot, "Quebec's Pelletier has bold plans for Canada: A radical overhaul," National Post, 4 December 2003, A11. The second of these articles indicates that Pelletier had favoured the creation of such a council for several years, originally as a replacement for the Canadian Senate.
- Kevin Dougherty, "Quebec parties slam feds' program on unity," Montreal Gazette, 2 November 2005, A7.
- Robert McKenzie, "Quebec Liberals say no to new Bill 99," Toronto Star, 20 April 2000, p. 1; Kevin Dougherty, "Canada is not 'eternal,' Charest Minister says: Clarity Act too negative to 'win over Quebecers'," Montreal Gazette, 22 November 2005, A9.
- Rhéal Séguin, "Quebec Liberals back option on secession," Globe and Mail, 4 May 2000, A4.
- "A list of the members of Quebec Premier Jean Charest's cabinet," Broadcast News, 29 April 2003, 17:15.
- "Quebec-Cabinet-List," Broadcast News, 18 February 2005, 14:15.
- Rhéal Séguin, "Woman fill half of cabinet in Quebec," Globe and Mail, 19 April 2007, A12; "Who's who in charest's new cabinet," Montreal Gazette, 19 April 2007, A12.
- Kevin Dougherty, "Pelletier slams feds on daycare," Montreal Gazette, 23 September 2005, A16.
- James Mccarten, "Grits laud compassionate care plan," Hamilton Spectator, 7 January 2004, A10.
- "Quebec and Ottawa close to a deal on day-care funding, say sources," Canadian Press, 26 October 2005, 23:25; Philip Authier, "Daycare deal announced: Federalist love-in; Gives Quebec funding, no strings attached," Montreal Gazette, 29 October 2005, A14.
- Richard Mackie and Rhéal Séguin, "Ontario, Quebec to talk strategy on health care," Globe and Mail, 22 April 2004, A7; Campbell Clark and Mark Hume, "Martin sells health plan to skeptical premiers," Globe and Mail, 27 May 2004, A7.
- Jack Aubry, "Quebec tests private role in health care," Ottawa Citizen, 11 April 2005, A6.
- Elizabeth Thompson, "Quebec seeks own voice on global stage," National Post, 27 September 2004, A4; Mike De Souza, "Quebec bids to improve international prescence," National Post, 18 February 2005, A8; Kevin Dougherty, "Wider role sought on world stage: Provincial minister takes hard line with Pettigrew," Montreal Gazette, 15 September 2005, A1. See also Benoît Pelletier, "[To refuse provincial input in international negotiations ...], Globe and Mail, 12 October 2005.
- "We stand on guard for asymmetry," Globe and Mail, 8 November 2004, A13; Benoît Pelletier, "Asymmetry is the way to meet regional needs," National Post, 2 December 2004, A19.
- Graeme Hamilton, "New regime puts separatists in a bind: Quebec minister says it's a 'historic opportunity' for federalists," National Post, 25 January 2006, A4.
- Jack Aubry, "Ottawa wise to Quebec 'games': memo," National Post, 17 August 2006, A4; Susan Riley, "The art of wooing Quebec," Ottawa Citizen, 27 October 2007, A16.
- Kevin Dougherty, "Pequistes scurry to embrace motion after Bloc's U-turn," Montreal Gazette, 25 November 2006, A12; Benoît Pelletier, "The Québécois ‘nation' is no threat to Canada," Globe and Mail, 20 December 2006. Harper's motion was rendered somewhat differently in French and English, leading to debate over whether it actually recognized the Québécois as a people or all residents of Quebec.
- Allan Woods, "'A new era in Canadian democracy': Harper unveils legislation for Senate changes; critics deride plan as a quick-fix 'gimmick'," October Citizen, 14 December 2006, A1. He also said that the Canadian government should consult Quebec before appointing lieutenant-governor for the province. See Kevin Dougherty, "Province seeks say in viceregal choice," Montreal Gazette, 4 May 2007, A12.
- Kevin Dougherty, "Federal bill would dilute Quebec's Commons seats, MNAs warn," Montreal Gazette, 17 May 2007, A10.
- Katherine Harding and Brian Laghi, "Klein issues warning on sharing the wealth," Globe and Mail, 25 May 2006, A1.
- Jocelyne Richer, "Quebec wants to define ‘nation' status," Globe and Mail, 7 August 2007, A7; Benoît Pelletier, "Making Quebecers feel good about being Canadian," Montreal Gazette, 20 August 2007, A17.
- Philip Authier, "Takes three to tangle in Assembly," Montreal Gazette, 18 October 2007, A4; Jack Aubry, "Conservatives plan to limit federal spending in provinces," Ottawa Citizen, 17 October 2007, A5; Elizabeth Thompson, "Poison pill has distinct Quebec flavour," Montreal Gazette, 17 October 2007, A3.
- See for instance Lysiane Gagnon, "Constitution talks, anyone?", Globe and Mail, 23 April 2007, A19; Don Macpherson, "Son of Meech; We've seen this movie before, and it turns out badly," Montreal Gazette, 9 August 2007, A21.
- Ross Marowits, "Quebec signs negotiations' framework to develop Inuit government," Canadian Press, 26 June 2003, 17:47.
- Elizabeth Thompson, "Inuit Given the Levers of Power; Region of Nunavik," National Post, 14 August 2007, A4.
- Norman Delisle, "Quebec decides not to reopen controversial Innu land claim deal," Canadian Press, 26 August 2003, 21:42; "Quebec accepts terms of Innu land-claims deal," Globe and Mail, 12 December 2003, A10.
- Kim Lunman and Rhéal Séguin, "Ottawa, Quebec prepared to fight organized crime on reserves," Globe and Mail, 20 January 2004, A9.
- Dave Rogers, "Gatineau to voice opinion on changing vote system: Quebec holds hearings on using mixed 'first-past-the-post,' proportional elections," Ottawa Citizen, 31 January 2006, C7.
- Benoît Pelletier, "Quebec needs a structural overhaul of voting system: Tinkering with system is not enough," Montreal Gazette, 13 February 2006, A23.
- Kevin Dougherty, "Liberals to split electoral reform plans: Will wait on proportional representation," Montreal Gazette, 8 May 2006, A9; Don MacPherson, "Liberals tear page from PQ songbook on voting reform," Montreal Gazette, 20 May 2006, B10.
- Don MacPherson, "Elections committee balks at declaring anglos a minority," Montreal Gazette, 3 June 2006, B7.
- Don MacPherson, "Electoral reform might be dead on drawing board," Montreal Gazette, 14 December 2006, A31; Rhéal Séguin, "Revise Quebec's voting system, report urges; Proportional representation would boost minority numbers, electoral official says," Globe and Mail, 22 December 2007, A8.
- "Quebec plans to help French minorities," Globe and Mail, 8 August 2003, A5.
- "Quebec to spend $1.7 million on francophones outside the province," Canadian Press, 14 August 2003, 18:07. This followed a suggestion from Canadian Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion that Quebec could take a leadership role in francophone matters across Canada. See "Stéphane Dion says Quebec has role in promoting French Canada," Canadian Press, 6 August 2003, 17:27.
- Kevin Dougherty, "Province must reach out to francophones in ROC: Charest," Montreal Gazette, 8 November 2006, A14. See also Professor Benoît Pelletier Calls for Solidarity Among Canada’s Francophones [press release], University of Ottawa Faculty of Law. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
- Philip Authier, "PQ defends Quebec citizenship proposal," Montreal Gazette, 21 October 2007, A4.
- Lia Levesque, "Prominent Quebecers hope to give federalism a boost with new book," Canadian Press, 8 November 2007, 17:56; Sean Gordon, "Shed `victim complex,' Quebec urged; New book boosts federalism, arguing province's goals can be met within Canada," Toronto Star, 9 November 2007, A22.
- "Minister Dupuis to have surgery," Montreal Gazette, 1 September 2007, A13.
- "Veteran Quebec Liberal Benoit Pelletier quits politics as election call looms," Canadian Press, 4 November 2008, 11:19.
- See for instance Mike De Souza, "Conservatives risking ire of Quebec with proposed Commons seat shuffle: experts," Canwest News Service, 25 September 2009.
- Daniel Leblanc and Joe Friesen, "Meech Lake at 20: The memory hasn't faded," Globe and Mail, 23 June 2010, A12.
- "Just published by the Presses de l'Université Laval - Une certaine idée du Québec. Parcours d'un fédéraliste. De la réflexion à l'action. By Benoît Pelletier," Canada NewsWire, 6 October 2010, 07:00.
- Don MacPherson, "Liberals secretly eye Charest's job," Montreal Gazette, 7 October 2010, A27.
- "Biography". Dictionnaire des parlementaires du Québec de 1792 à nos jours (in French). National Assembly of Quebec.
- Academic biography, University of Ottawa