Guy Ouellette: Fifteen years and counting …

Former SQ officer aspires to win a sixth term in October provincial elections

In October 2007 when Guy Ouellette was first elected to the Quebec National Assembly as the Liberal member for Chomedey, there may have been those who believed only calm seas would lie ahead for an MNA in this long-time PLQ stronghold.

And indeed, while the sailing was initially smooth for Ouellette, the waters turned suddenly very turbulent around a decade later.

That was around a year or so before the provincial elections that saw Premier François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec government raised to power.

It was also in 2017 that Ouellette was arrested by Quebec’s Unité permanente anti-corruption (UPAC) police force – even though he was never charged and has been fully exonerated since then.

Big shoes to fill

Ouellette had big shoes to fill when Tom Mulcair, who had been Chomedey’s Liberal MNA since 1994 and a Minister of the Environment is Premier Jean Charest’s cabinet, decided not to run again in the 2007 Quebec general election.

In an interview earlier this week with The Laval News, Ouellette, a former Sûreté du Québec investigator, said that having spent virtually all his professional life in police work, he had no real idea of what awaited him in the realm of politics.

“Frankly, arriving in politics, first I didn’t know what politics was all about,” he said. “Police and politics are not two things that normally go together. But being in public service for 32 years as a police officer, for me it was a normal step going into politics.

“And I tried to figure at the beginning to apply the same recipe: helping people, serving them, hearing them, trying to get their file to the government to make things change. And especially in Laval, because Laval as a whole is an island and you need to work together. So, I put in a lot of effort to make sure that with my other colleagues we would speak as one in Laval.”

Team work essential, he says

If there is one lesson Ouellette said he learned in the 15 years he’s been office, it’s that the region’s six MNAs need to work closely together in order to ensure that Laval – the third largest municipality in Quebec – receives everything it deserves from the provincial government.

“We saw over the years, a couple of times when there were different governments, that when you split your forces in Laval or elsewhere, the result is totally different,” he said.

Pointing out that since 1981, when the provincial electoral district of Chomedey was created from parts of the Fabre and Laval ridings, Chomedey has had just three MNAs, Ouellette noted they were all Liberal, while adding he hoped to add four more years to his record following this October’s provincial election.

“It was always in my mind to take part in the 2022 election,” he continued, while acknowledging that the UPAC affair briefly upset his electoral plans.

Wins his first term in office

Leading up to his first electoral win on March 26, 2007, Ouellette expressed his desire to help get kids off the street by improving the existing sports infrastructures, such as arenas, and committed himself to the creation of a new soccer field in Chomedey.

During that year’s campaign, his 38 years of experience in public safety would come in handy when it came to improving the safety of Laval’s streets. “I will put my years of experience at work for the Chomedey population to have a safe environment for the people,” he said at the time.

“The mood at Liberal candidate Guy Ouellette’s campaign headquarters on election night was mixed,” we wrote in our election night coverage that year. “Early in the evening there were a few nerves, yet a sense of confidence that in the Chomedey riding, at least, Liberal rouge would prevail.”

As we pointed out, the real story, as expected that evening, was the makeup of the next provincial government as a whole. By this time the local vote, projected from a web page onto the screen, showed Ouellette with a comfortable lead of 62 per cent as he was declared elected by TVA within an hour of poll closings.

His second victory in Chomedey

On the eve of his second term win in the December 2008 election, Ouellette was focusing his campaign on the economy, as well as programs aimed at getting youth off the street and into sports and activities to empower them.

The construction of a sports complex for residents of Laval was in the early stages of development. “The center will have activities and indoor sports that will keep young people busy and active,” he said. The economy was also a major issue the PLQ was addressing on the campaign trail.

“The economy is really important because Chomedey is the third poorest riding in terms of income in the province,” added Ouellette. “Citizens are concerned about their incomes and I need to reassure them.” The main message the PLQ wanted to send out to Quebecers was that a majority government was the key to combating the looming economic crisis.

“There are some clouds coming up in the next couple of months and with a minority government, there are three hands on the wheel. I think if people don’t want an election every 18 months, vote for a majority government and it will be finished for four years. Choose the party with the best leader, the best team and the best plan. The answer to all three is the Liberals,” stated Ouellette.

A third election win

At Guy Ouellette’s campaign headquarters as he was running for a third term on Sept. 4 2012, the ambience seemed more of a family gathering than a group of political strategists who had come together at campaign’s end for an inventory of the results.

This was the election when the Parti Québécois was able to stage a brief return to power, since being turfed from office by Jean Charest’s Liberals in 2003.

“This is just one battle tonight – we haven’t lost the fight – tonight is tonight but tomorrow is another day,” Ouellette told supporters after his victory was confirmed.

Acknowledging that the province would now be governed by a minority PQ government, he added, “It’s far from over – follow what’s going to happen – we aren’t off to another election yet. The next few days promise to be very, very interesting.”

Ouellette thanked his wife and children who were all present, while also expressing his thanks to those from the Chomedey Greek and Armenian communities who supported him.

“We have the largest Greek community in Chomedey, and it was very important for me to know that I had the support of the Greek and the Armenian communities,” he said.

Ouellette finished with more than 57 per cent support, compared to the Coalition Avenir Québec’s 19.24 per cent and the PQ’s 16.79 per cent. Ouellette became the Laval Liberals’ senior MNA.

Wins his fourth election

As the polls closed on the night of April 7, 2014 when Ouellette won his fourth term in office, the PLQ won all six seats in the Laval region. Ouellette, who as Laval’s senior Liberal was now chairman of the Laval PLQ caucus, was surrounded by supporters of all ages and varied ethnic backgrounds at his campaign headquarters.

“It took teamwork to win six ridings,” he told supporters. “I thank you all, Greek and Armenian communities, Portuguese, Arabic, French Canadian and many others. We are all Quebecers here.”

Ouellette spoke of the future with confidence. “We had two priorities. The first was to win a majority government. The second was to take all six ridings in Laval. We achieved those two objectives tonight. Going forward, we have confidence in Philippe Couillard. He is an extraordinary guy. I believe in my boss.”

Ouellette wins a fifth term

A feeling of victory filled the air at Ouellette’s Notre Dame Blvd. campaign headquarters on provincial election night Oct. 1, 2018 – even though it also rang hollow.

Although Ouellette himself easily won a fifth term as had been expected, the Quebec Liberal Party’s losses most everywhere else in Quebec were historic in their proportion. After election night, events turned in such a way that Ouellette was no longer a Liberal and would be representing the people of Chomedey as an independent member of the National Assembly.

The PLQ managed to capture four of Laval’s five other ridings, the exception being Fabre where incumbent Liberal Jean Habel was defeated by the Coalition Avenir Québec’s Christopher Skeete.

Only a few days before the election, Ouellette was embroiled in a controversy when Coalition Avenir Québec leader François Legault maintained that Ouellette had previously leaked confidential information to the CAQ regarding contracts awarded by the Liberal government.

Guy Ouellette is seen here at his campaign headquarters on election night in 2018. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

Ouellette had been briefly placed under arrest in October 2017 by UPAC, which was conducting an investigation of leaked documents and information from within its own ranks. At the time, the National Assembly’s speaker issued a statement expressing solidarity with Ouellette and denouncing UPAC’s actions as a threat to the work done by all MNAs.

“Being in politics isn’t always easy,” Ouellette said in an address to his supporters on that election night. “You have to be willing to follow through on your convictions, you have to be up to the same level as your integrity. It’s not everyone who understands this and it’s not everyone who accepts it. But I have never made any compromises in terms of rigour and this integrity to defend the citizens of Chomedey while continuing to serve you.”

Despite the dismal results for the Liberals across the province, Ouellette said, “It won’t change my determination to serve and to serve each and every citizen of Chomedey.

“We didn’t get the results across the province that might have been wished for tonight,” he continued. “But for the citizens of Chomedey, starting tomorrow we’ll be in a position to continue the work we do and that was started by [former MNAs] Mr. Mulcair and Mrs. Bacon and the late Jean-Noël Lavoie.”