As the chairman of the provincial Liberal government caucus and a long time D’Arcy McGee Member of the National Assembly, Lawrence Bergman continues to demonstrate the valuable influence he has. Last week he arranged for Premier Jean Charest to attend and speak at the annual Yom Hashoah commemoration at Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem Congregation in Côte Saint-Luc. On May 9, he brought Minister of Finance and Revenue Raymond Bachand to address a packed room of the Côte Saint-Luc Senior Men’s Club.
I had the good fortune of spending some time and chatting with Bachand a few weeks ago when we met at the Centaur Theatre for a showing of Schwartz’s The Musical. I joined Mayor Anthony Housefather, Bergman and Senior Men’s Club President Sidney Margles in welcoming Bachand when he arrived at the Côte Saint-Luc Shopping Centre.
“I sent a few friends of mine to see Schwartz’s” he told me.
Bachand is one smart cookie. A lawyer by profession, he also has a doctorate of administration from the Université de Montréal and an MBA from Harvard University.
An assistant professor at École des hautes études commerciales de Montréal (1972-1977), he entered the world of politics as the chief of staff for the Minister of Labour and Manpower (1977-1979), then as special secretary in the Office of Premier René Lévesque (1979-1981). In the early 1980s, he embarked upon his business career, first as vice-president of Métro-Richelieu (1981-1989), then as vice-president of Culinar (1990-1993), first vice-president (1994-1997) and president and CEO (1997-2001) of the Fonds de solidarité de la FTQ and president and CEO of Secor Conseil (2002-2005). Throughout this period, he sat on numerous boards of directors.
Despite his many professional activities, Bachand finds the time for community and cultural involvement, working with organizations such as Fondation Jules et Paul-Émile-Léger, Fondation de la Tolérance, Fondation Charles-Bruneau and Oxfam-Québec. He chairs Carbone 14 (Usine C) and the advisory group on Montréal’s first cultural policy.
Elected MNA for Outremont in a by-election in December 2005, he was re-elected in the general elections of 2007 and 2008. He headed the ministère du Développement économique, de l'Innovation et de l'Exportation from February 2006 to June 2009, and the ministère du Tourisme from April 2007 to December 2008. In April 2009, the Ppremier appointed him Minister of Finance, a position he still occupies. In August 2010, he was also entrusted with the ministère du Revenu.
As Bachand made his way to our second floor headquarters for Seniors (soon to be moved to our new Aquatic and Community Centre), he came upon 90 year Bill Taylor (left). It seems the elevator leading to the room was broken and Bill can no longer climb stairs. Bachand stopped to talk to Bill and answer a few of his questions. He also stopped to talk to Tamar Lewis (below) , who had a personal photo to present
Bergman referred to Margles as a close friend of his for more than 50 years now. He then presented Margles with a $1,000 cheque from the Quebec government for the Men’s Club. “We will not use this for the elevator,” Margles quipped, noting that we are a tenant in the Centre.
Bergman then introduced Bachand, whom he credited with assisting on three important files in the riding: the saving of our Emergency Medical Services (EMS) program; the millions of dollars of support from the government for the Aquatic Community Centre which is being funded by the Quebec and Canadian governments and Côte Saint-Luc; and another substantial contribution to the construction of Pavillion K of the Jewish General Hospital which will focus on patients requiring emergency treatment, surgery, or intensive, coronary, or neonatal intensive care.
“For Pavillion K I was originally told I had a half hour to discuss our role with the premier,” Bergman recalled. “When I walked into his office, who was sitting there but my good friend Raymond Bachand. Now I knew I would be successful. And I was.”
Bergman also recalls going to Israel with Bachand and sharing in the experience of visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum. “I can only describe with one word and that is a mensch,” Bergman said, referring to the Yiddish translation for “a person of integrity and honour.
Bachand captivated the audience with a power point presentation on the Quebec economy and left time to answer questions. “Our five-year financial framework will stay in place,” he commented. “We are going back to a balanced budget, we are going to control our debt. But we are doing so while protecting health and education. That’s a choice we’ve made in Quebec,”
In March Bachand tabled a "stay the course" budget, meaning he intends to keep on the path toward eliminating the provincial deficit by 2013-2014. “The Quebec economy is going well,” he assured us. “During the recession we were very active in providing financial support to good companies and stepped in with guaranteed bank loans. As a result we created an additional 60,000 jobs. If we had done nothing, by 2013-2014 we would have had a $12 billion deficit.”
If Charest were to retire before the end of his mandate, many are touting Bachand as a possible successor to lead the Liberal Party and the province.