Anglophones get minister

When Philippe Couillard was aspiring to be Quebec Liberal leader, he and Kathleen Weil met with members of the province's main English-speaking advocacy group to discuss its wish for a secretariat of anglophone affairs.

Six years later, the Quebec Community Groups Network has what it wanted.

"From our perspective we have been listened to and this is a reality," James Shea, the organization's president, said Wednesday after Couillard named Weil as the secretariat's first minister as part of a major cabinet shuffle.

Couillard, elected premier in 2014, first announced the creation of the bureau in June.

For now, Weil is a minister without a full department, as many details of the new secretariat have yet to be worked out, let alone announced.

"I haven't had briefings on the work that's been done," she said in an interview. "We still have to select the senior civil servant who will be running the secretariat."

Weil said a secretariat is like a department, but smaller.

"It's very historic," she said. "It's the first time there will be a secretariat with actual civil servants working specifically on the file for the English-speaking community."

Weil, who has worked for years inside and outside government on issues important to the province's anglophones, said she doesn't know what her budget will be or how many employees will be hired.

Anglophone community groups have often complained about being taken for granted or ignored by the Quebec government, regardless of the party in power.

Shea said the new office will ensure a dedicated bureaucracy inside the civil service working on behalf of Anglo-Quebecers.

The secretariat will collect and analyze data about the English community to be of service to other departments when policy is developed. The new bureau will also be a "clearing house" where English speakers can go directly with questions about government services, he said.

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