September 22, 2005
18 Elul, 5765


 

Bergman named to Charest cabinet

By JANICE ARNOLD
Staff Reporter

Lawrence Bergman

Lawrence Bergman, a tenacious backbencher for the past nine years, has followed in the footsteps of two of his predecessors in the D�Arcy McGee riding and been named a Liberal cabinet minister.

Bergman, 62, was appointed revenue minister last week by Premier Jean Charest, one of two anglophones in the 24-member cabinet.

Wearing a kippah throughout the ceremony, Bergman was sworn in on a Chumash he received at his bar mitzvah at Congregation Adath Israel-Poale Zedek in Outremont.

�I am extremely honoured� it brings me great joy. It�s also an honour for the entire community,� Bergman told The CJN. While he stressed he will represent all citizens of Quebec in cabinet, he allowed that his being Jewish is �something quite significant,� especially given �the abundance of talent� from which Charest had to choose.

Bergman said his first task will be to improve his department�s efficiency. �I want to make it easier for people to deal with the ministry.�

He will likely work closely with Charest on his promised tax cuts of $1 billion a year over the next five years.

Charest followed a Liberal tradition of selecting a Jewish cabinet minister from the predominantly Jewish D�Arcy McGee: in the 1970s, Victor Goldbloom was responsible for the Montreal Olympics, and later Herbert Marx was named justice minister. Marx resigned in 1988 to protest the Bourassa government�s bill overriding the Canadian Charter of Rights in order to preserve parts of Bill 101 that were judged by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional.

Bergman�s appointment apparently recognizes the Jewish community�s strong support for Charest�s campaign, expressed by the overwhelming majority Bergman received from voters, and its financial backing.

Bergman held a major fundraising event during the campaign at Congregation Shaar Hashomayim.

Bergman�s name did not surface in media speculation about who would likely be in cabinet. It came as something of a surprise that more than one anglophone was included. Some observers had thought the other Jewish MNA, Russell Copeman of Notre-Dame-de-Gr�ce, had a better chance because of his performance as family critic.

Bergman is actually the fourth Jewish cabinet minister in Quebec. The unelected David Levine served as Premier Bernard Landry�s junior health minister from January of last year until his defeat in a byelection four months later.

Bergman�s proudest achievement since first being elected in 1994 was his private member�s bill that proclaimed Quebec�s official recognition of Yom Hashoah. It was passed unanimously by the National Assembly in 1999.

However, Bergman can arguably be credited with setting in motion the chain of events which led to the abrupt resignation of former premier Lucien Bouchard and his exit from politics of the man who had the best chance of leading Quebec to sovereignty.

In December 2000, Bergman initiated a motion condemning Yves Michaud for remarks offensive to Jews. Michaud, a PQ militant and prospective electoral candidate, had chastised Jews for behaving as if they are the only people who have suffered and for not supporting sovereignty.

The assembly�s unanimous vote, a very rare censure of an individual, created an uproar and split the PQ. In January 2001, Bouchard announced his resignation, citing personal reasons and his inability to advance the cause of sovereignty. But he also spoke at length about his disillusionment over the Michaud affair.

A notary, Bergman is proud of his deep roots in Quebec. His mother was born in St. Perpetue and his father in St. Romuald, small towns near Quebec City.

He graduated in law from the Universit� de Montr�al in 1965, and practiced as a notary until 1994.

Bergman has had a strong association with the Jewish community. He was president of Congregation Adath Israel-Poale Zedek, an honorary president of the YM-YWHA, and an executive member of the Jewish Community Council.

In 1994, he beat popular independent MNA Robert Libman in a closely fought campaign. After his first term, Bergman quietly stood up against some in the party who would have liked to see a safe seat like D�Arcy McGee go to someone else.

In 1998, he cruised to victory with one of the largest majorities in the province, a feat he repeated last month. His showing was so strong that on election night, the TV networks declared D�Arcy McGee as the first seat to be won in the province.

Despite his certain victory, Bergman was a dogged campaigner, knocking on doors, speaking to groups, and gladhanding in shopping malls.

To do anything less, Bergman said, would be disrespectful to citizens and the democratic process.

In opposition, Bergman served as the critic for consumer protection and the codes governing the professions.

Bergman has had a talent for staying �on message� � never varying from his party�s platform and hammering away at the PQ. His earnestness gained him wide respect.

Every year, he has delivered a speech in the National Assembly at Yom Hashoah, and he introduced a motion congratulating Israel on its 50th anniversary.

Bergman overcame personal tragedy when his wife Monica died in 2000 from cancer after a long illness. More than 1,400 people attended her funeral.

In 2001, Bergman led an aggressive campaign to save D�Arcy McGee from being eliminated in an electoral-map revision, collecting thousands of signatures on a petition and getting the endorsement of every major Jewish organization.