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Quebec names new ag minister in shuffle

Making room in cabinet for one of Monday’s byelection winners, Quebec’s Liberal government has named a policy analyst turned politician as the province’s new agriculture minister.

Kamouraska-Temiscouata MLA Claude Bechard was moved Tuesday from the natural resources portfolio to take over both the agriculture, food and fisheries and intergovernmental affairs files.

As ag minister, Bechard replaces Frontenac MLA Laurent Lessard, who moves to the municipal affairs portfolio.

The shuffle follows the election of former National Bank chief economist Clement Gignac in a Montreal riding Monday. Premier Jean Charest on Tuesday named Gignac as the province’s new minister of economic development.

Bechard, 39, was born at St-Philippe-de-Neri, about 150 km northeast of Quebec City in the Lower St. Lawrence region, and studied political science at Laval.

He worked as a policy advisor for the provincial Liberals (1993-96) and briefly for a public affairs firm before winning Kamouraska-Temiscouata, an eastern riding bordering both New Brunswick and Maine, in 1997. He was re-elected in 1998, 2003 and 2007.

Lessard, a former mayor of Thetford Mines and the province’s ag minister since April 2007, replaces Nathalie Normandeau in the municipal affairs portfolio. Normandeau replaces Bechard as natural resources minister.

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