Partway through first term, Quebec Premier Legault already planning his exit

SAN FANCISCO, United States — Political power has an expiration date for Quebec Premier Francois Legault, who has already begun planning his political exit despite a high approval rating.

Legault told The Canadian Press that no matter what, he won’t stick around for a third or fourth term.

Legault said he will continue with his long-time plan to campaign for a second mandate for his Coalition Avenir Quebec party. But if he gets it, he plans to step down before the end of the term.

Legault appeared hesitant at times to discuss his plans in an interview during a recent mission to California, but made it clear that he wasn’t a career politician obsessed by what he called “the pleasure of power.”

“I won’t give any names,” he said, referring to “people who do politics for the sake of politics.”

“They get a taste of power, and then it becomes about staying in power to stay in power.”

Legault said that’s not his style.

The 62-year-old Air Transat co-founder said he wouldn’t measure his success by the number of years or terms in power, but rather on one goal: “Can we be better, prouder of being Quebecers?” he asked. “That’s what motivates me, not the question of power.”

Legault, who previously served as a Parti Quebecois cabinet minister, stepped down from politics in 2009 before returning to found his party in 2011. At the time, he declared, “Today I’m clear: I don’t want, if I return to politics, to make a career of it.”

At the time, he spoke of a 10-year timeline, which would fall partway through his current term. Later, he spoke of staying on for one term, then two.

When he founded the Coalition Avenir Quebec, it was described as “the party of a single man.” Today, he is confident his party will survive him.

“I’m not worried,” he said. “It even gives me pleasure to see there is the next generation growing,” he said, adding it was already possible to “start naming those who could eventually replace me.” However, he declined to name his successor.

Legault’s refusal to reconsider a lengthy political reign is typical of his efficient approach, which has thus far been characterized by pushing through changes at top speed.

At times, that hastiness has gotten him in trouble.

In November, Legault was forced to backtrack on proposed changes to a popular fast-track immigration program for foreign students and workers after furious criticism from across the province, including from the business and post-secondary education sectors.

And he’s faced criticism for invoking closure on three occasions to force votes on various bills without the usual parliamentary debates — which his rivals characterized as undemocratic.

The first two were Bill 9, which overhauled the immigration system, and Bill 21, which banned some public servants from wearing religious symbols. The final one involved hydroelectricity rates.

Legault said he’s aware of the pressure he’s putting on his ministers to deliver, and quickly. All of them know they risk ejection from cabinet for dragging their feet.

”Me, I’m a results guy. I want to see results,” he said.

“Yes, I put pressure and I’m demanding with the ministers, but that’s because I want to deliver in the areas where we want to make changes.”

Legault’s ministers were all asked to deliver strategic plans, which include performance targets for each department. He said he holds himself to the same standards.

He said the Quebec public has high expectations for him to deliver — and he knows the honeymoon with his government won’t last forever.

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