Pauline Marois is Leader of the Parti Québécois (PQ) and Leader of the Official Opposition. Currently, she serves as Member of the National Assembly (MNA) for the riding of Charlevoix, a riding she won in a by-election on September 24, 2007.
In the provincial election held on December 8, 2008, the PQ won 51 seats, a significant improvement over its 2007 election results. The PQ regained its official opposition status with Marois replacing Action Démocratique du Québec (ADQ) party Mario Dumont as Leader of the Official Opposition. The ADQ party saw its presence in the National Assembly drastically reduced.
Under the new session of provincial Parliament, the PQ has pledged to cooperate with the ruling Liberals during a period of tough economic times. However, Marois has expressed criticism over the provincial government’s failure to secure Quebec’s share of equalization payments from the federal government, as well as for not doing more for the province’s forestry sector (in terms of getting federal funding).
Marois was acclaimed Parti Québécois leader on June 27, 2007, after André Boisclair resigned. It was Marois’ third bid for the party leadership. She was runner-up to Boisclair in the leadership contest held in 2005. She also ran for the leadership in 1985 following the resignation of Premier René Lévesque, but came in second. Marois emerged from retirement expressly to run for the PQ leadership.
As PQ leader, Marois has put the plan for referendum on sovereignty on hold; her focus is on rebuilding voter support for Quebec independence. She has proposed a strategic plan to assist the province’s forestry sector, which has been hard hit in recent years due to mill closures. In October 2007, she proposed the Quebec Identity Act, which would require immigrants to learn French in order to obtain rights. Her proposal was heavily criticized both within Quebec and beyond. In April 2008, Marois proposed revising Bill 101, the French Language Charter, in order to address a decline in the use of French language in the province. Among her proposals are additional French courses in elementary and secondary schools; a requirement that newcomers to the province learn French; and more power for the Office of the French Language.
Though the PQ Party has long been the main Quebec sovereigntist and social democratic party in Quebec, it performed poorly in the election held March 26, 2007, and was replaced by the Action Démocratique du Québec (ADQ) Party as the official opposition.
During her political career, Marois has served as a Cabinet Minister under René Levesque, Jacques Parizeau, Lucien Bouchard, and Bernard Landry. She has been responsible for portfolios in key areas, including status of women, labour, administration and public service, finance, revenue, and education. She was first elected MNA in 1981; she subsequently lost her seat in 1985, but was re-elected to the provincial legislature in 1989.
In the 1970s, Marois gained experience with several community organizations prior to working as press attachée for then-finance minister Jacques Parizeau. She also served as chief of staff for Lise Payette, minister responsible for the condition of women, and taught for some time at Université du Québec en Outaouais.
Marois was born on March 29, 1949 in Quebec City. She earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from Université Laval, and an MBA from HEC Montréal. She is married to Claude Blanchet, and they have four children: Catherine, Félix, François-Christophe and Jean-Sébastien. She currently resides in Île-Bizard, on Montreal’s West Island.