Senior Ignatieff aide leaves Ottawa to re-enter Charest government

A top aide to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is returning to provincial politics where he appears poised to become a senior minister in the Quebec government.

MONTREAL — A top aide to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is returning to provincial politics where he appears poised to become a senior minister in the Quebec government.

Jean-Marc Fournier already served in the Charest cabinet but left provincial politics in 2008 and, more recently, was the principal secretary in the Opposition Leader’s Office in Ottawa.

Ignatieff’s entourage says Fournier is leaving Ottawa on excellent terms and will be sorely missed. They say he was invited by Premier Jean Charest to take a run in a vacant provincial seat.

They also note at least one silver lining in losing a senior official: that they gain a close friend in the Quebec cabinet.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with Jean-Marc Fournier for over a year and above all I’ve had the chance to know a man of principle — a man of conviction,” Ignatieff said in a statement.

“I have learned much in working with Jean-Marc and I believe he has also learned some things in working with us in Ottawa. . . It is very comforting to know that we will be able to count on a colleague and a true friend in Jean-Marc Fournier within the Quebec government.”

Fournier, 50, will run in a safe Montreal-area Liberal riding in an upcoming byelection.

It’s unclear yet what cabinet role he will assume. But Fournier already held some of the biggest portfolios in Quebec, having served as minister of education, municipal affairs, revenue and as House leader between 2003 and his departure in 2008.

Public Security Minister Jacques Dupuis, the government House leader and trusted ally of Charest, announced Monday he is quitting politics.

Dupuis, 61, has held a number of high-profile portfolios since his arrival in Quebec City including deputy premier, justice minister and intergovernmental affairs minister.

The premier, standing between both men at a news conference, choked up when discussing the departure of Dupuis.

“This touches me personally because he is a friend,” Charest said. “I hold him in high esteem.”

Dupuis’ resignation leaves the door open to a cabinet shuffle that has been rumoured since June.

He handled a number of key files, including gun-control legislation adopted in the wake of the 2006 Dawson College shootings.

But he has come under fire in recent years — first over the handling of a public inquiry into the shooting of a Montreal teen in 2008; then he was linked to Luigi Coretti, a bankrupted security firm owner with controversial ties to the government.

The Charest government has been battered by scandals over questionable fundraising practices and allegations of influence-peddling.

In fact, the bulk of Monday’s news conference was dominated by questions about government scandals.

The Parti Quebecois opposition described Dupuis’ departure as the latest evidence of Liberals desperate to escape a sinking government ship.