(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. He will take office on Thursday.

The SAAQclic fiasco will therefore have cost Mr. Marsolais his position, appointed by the Legault government in 2021. He is a senior career civil servant, who has already been public curator of Quebec, deputy minister of Justice, Security public and transport. The decision to knock him out and 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 deplored “serious planning shortcomings” on the part of the SAAQ and asked for an evaluation of the work of the board of directors and the big boss of this state-owned company.

For the Legault government, the Minister of Cybersecurity and Digital, Éric Caire, was not involved in the failures of this transition, which forced drivers’ license holders to line up outside the branches of the SAAQ to pay for their renewal.

“This project was authorized in 2017 by the Board of Directors of the SAAQ. It is not on government dashboards. And unlike departments and agencies that update their technology projects monthly on a public dashboard, the SAAQ doesn’t do that,” Mr. Caire hammered home in an interview with La Presse in early March.

Last month, the Minister of Transport, Geneviève Guilbault, even had to cut short a trip to Europe in order to return to settle the crisis at the SAAQ in Quebec. She then announced a series of emergency measures, including a grace period for motorists and truckers unable to renew their license. “There are a lot of people at the head of the SAAQ who had planning work to do. […] There is a planning that has not been done quite adequately, ”she said in stride.

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 when called to respond.

François Legault directly blamed the state company, which had closed its premises for almost 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, that there won’t be an impact,” he lamented.

The Prime Minister had claimed that the Crown corporation was causing this closure without having presented a transition plan. He had cleared Mr. Caire, who according to him only has an “advisory role in digital transformation for both ministries and state-owned companies”.

New boss of the SAAQ, Éric Ducharme was 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.

These changes cause 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.