QUEBEC — One of Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard’s main challenges as he prepares for his next cabinet shuffle will be to give his greying party a more youthful air.
Couillard, who is said to be contemplating a shuffle in the coming days, leads a team that is more golden-aged than school-aged.
According to data compiled by The Canadian Press, more than a third of his cabinet ministers are over the age of 60, and over half are 55-plus.
Only five of 26 cabinet ministers, or 19 per cent, are under the age of 50.
After 3 1/2 years in power, the leader of Quebec’s Liberal Party is looking to do whatever he can to counter the opposition’s claims that his party is worn out.
“Transformation” has been one of his refrains of late, and he’s made no secret of his desire to disassociate his party from the one that governed for a decade under former premier Jean Charest.
But while Couillard has repeatedly said he’d like to give more room to women and young people on his team, the task could prove difficult.
There are multiple factors to consider when forming cabinet, including representing all the regions.
A leader must also try to balance men and women, age and experience, and everyone’s political aspirations.
But if Couillard is serious about bringing a culture of youth to his cabinet, birth date is going to have to become another criteria for advancement.
People aged 65 and up — an age commonly associated with retirement — make up 18 per cent of his caucus, while those under the age of 40 make up only eight per cent.
Ever since voters handed his party a crushing defeat in a byelection in the former safe seat of Louis-Hebert on Oct. 2, rumours have been circulating that the premier will have no choice but to shuffle his cabinet to change his image, bring in new blood, and calm the grumbling in his caucus.
As he has tried to cultivate a more youthful image, Couillard has occasionally contrasted himself with the leaders of the two main opposition parties, who both entered politics before the year 2000.
“They come from the last century,” he said this fall in reference to the politics of Parti Quebecois Leader Jean-Francois Lisee and Coalition for Quebec’s Future Leader Francois Legault.
But on a generational level, little separates the three leaders.
Couillard, 60, began his political career in 2003, while Legault, also 60, was first elected in 1998.
Lisee, 59, began working as a PQ political strategist in 1994, before getting elected in 2012.