08/24/2012 04:36 EDT | Updated 10/24/2012 05:12 EDT

Top bureaucrats' jobs at risk from CAQ

The jobs of Quebec's top civil servants and Crown corporation managers are on the line of the Coalition Avenir Québec wins next month's election.

CAQ Leader François Legault said Friday he wouldn't hesitate to dismiss senior bureaucrats and executives who are reluctant to implement his party's platform.

That platform includes plans to cut $600 million in expenses at Hydro-Québec, which Legault says is, by independent benchmarks, bloated.

"You can't say, 'We want to cut $600 million in expenses at Hydro-Québec' and not have the president agree," he said.

The CAQ also wants to enact changes at the Caisse de dépôt et placement, the province's pension-fund management arm. The party would use some of the Caisse's $160 billion in assets to create a fund to block takeovers of Quebec companies, but current Caisse boss Michael Sabia is cool to the idea, Legault said.

Asked at a news conference how he would deal with such opposition, Legault was blunt.

"There will be changes. There will be changes to the boards of directors and to senior management."

It's normal for new governments to appoint a fresh slate of deputy ministers and even associate deputy ministers. But telegraphing those decisions during an election campaign, as Legault initially did in a La Presse interview published Friday, then repeated at his news conference in Quebec City, is not.

In the newspaper interview, Legault specifically cites the deputy ministers of Finance, Treasury, Health and Education as personnel whose outlooks would have to mesh with his.

He was asked Friday if such pronouncements might make senior public servants unnecessarily nervous.

"The goal is noble. The goal isn't to bicker with unions. The goal is to help our children, among others," Legault said. "If the president of Hydro-Québec convinces me that he's ready to cut expenses by $600 million, then I'm open to that."