(Quebec and Montreal) The Legault government fires the CEO of the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ), Denis Marsolais, and replaces him with Éric Ducharme, who until recently was secretary of the Treasury Board .

The SAAQclic fiasco will therefore have cost Mr. Marsolais his position, appointed by the Legault government at the end of 2021. This senior career civil servant has already served as public curator of Quebec, deputy minister of Justice, Public Security and to Transport. The decision to replace him now was officially taken by the Council of Ministers on Wednesday, during its weekly meeting. But a changing of the guard had been looming on the horizon for a few weeks.

In mid-March, Prime Minister François Legault had deplored “serious planning shortcomings” on the part of the SAAQ and had asked for an evaluation of the work of the board of directors and the big boss of the state corporation. Mr. Legault directly blamed the state corporation, which had closed its premises for nearly a month to prepare for the digital transition. “We can’t think that we’re going to close offices for three weeks and that the day we’re going to reopen, [there] won’t be an impact,” he lamented.

During a press briefing on Wednesday, Transport Minister Geneviève Guilbault argued that the CEO’s “primary responsibility” was to ensure “the quality and continuity of services” of the SAAQ. “It is clear that the quality of services to citizens has been greatly altered. […] Have I noticed any shortcomings for a month? Of course it is,” she said, referring to “planning” and “operational” issues.

“The assessment is that there was a responsibility that was not discharged to our satisfaction” on the part of Mr. Marsolais, added the minister. She still had “good words” for this “quality manager” she’s known for 10 years. “He had a huge challenge on his hands. He was the one who had the first step in the digital conversion of government services, it was not easy. »

Geneviève Guilbault acknowledged that the SAAQ notified her in November of the implications of the digital transformation, including the closure of offices for three weeks. “The closing date has migrated a bit in time, but, yeah, we’ve all been, the executive council, made aware,” she said. According to her explanations, the state corporation had responded to various members of the government, including herself, that she was “ready” and that “[she] has been preparing for a long time”. The minister implied that she had no reason to believe that the operation would turn into a fiasco. “It’s his responsibility as CEO. You appoint people at some point to do the job,” she replied, hounded on the subject.

Last month, while the queues in front of the offices of the SAAQ made the headlines, Geneviève Guilbault had cut short a trip to Europe in order to return to Quebec to settle the crisis at the SAAQ. She then announced a series of emergency measures, including a grace period for motorists and truckers unable to renew their license.

Denis Marsolais now finds himself in the limbo of the senior public service, while he is attached to the Secretariat for Senior Jobs of the Ministry of the Executive Council – the Prime Minister’s ministry -, according to Ms. Guilbault’s explanations.

According to the government, the Minister of Cybersecurity and Digital, Éric Caire, was not to blame for the failures of this transition. Mr. Legault had cleared Mr. Caire, who according to him only has an “advisory role in digital transformation for both ministries and Crown corporations”. The fact remains that the SAAQ is the first organization to integrate the new Government Authentication Service, the baby of Éric Caire’s ministry, which replaces the ClicSEQUR system. This element is part of the portrait of the situation.

At the SAAQ, we are for the moment stingy with comments, notably refusing to advance on the transition that will have to take place in senior management. “We have no reaction or comment to make today,” the organization’s spokesperson, Gino Desrosiers, briefly replied after being called to comment.

Christian Daigle, president of the Syndicat de la fonction publique et parapublique du Québec (SFPQ), which represents 2,200 SAAQ employees, says he “takes note of the change”, but hopes that it is not a screen of smoke. “It’s always easy for politicians to find a scapegoat. The person who pays today is Mr. Marsolais, but there was still a political responsibility in that too. It takes us solutions to remedy the solution quickly, ”says Daigle.

“Now will Mr. Ducharme have any better ideas?” Is he going to be able to do things differently? We’ll see. We will give the chance to the runner, ”insists the trade unionist.

Éric Ducharme takes office on Thursday as the new boss of the SAAQ. He had been Secretary of the Treasury since the CAQ came to power in 2018. He was previously CEO of Revenu Québec and Assistant Deputy Minister of Finance.

This change causes a game of musical chairs. Patrick Dubé becomes the new secretary at the Treasury Board. He was deputy minister in the Department of Transport. He is replaced in this function by Frédéric Guay, whose current position of Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs is filled by Nicolas Paradis, until now Associate Deputy Minister of Justice.