The trained lawyer finished second in the Parti Québécois leadership race in October 2020, behind Paul St-Pierre Plamondon. And since he announced that he was not running again in March 2022, the life of the former Minister of Transport and Municipal Affairs has changed a lot.

A few weeks after the announcement of his departure, he obtained the position that had become vacant as director general of the Cégep de Jonquière, where he had taught in the Arts and Media Technology program before entering politics.

Today, he manages issues of recruitment and retention of teachers and students, among others, but he does not hesitate to take a green turn at the CEGEP of 3,000 students. His term is for five years.

“I gave a climate change orientation to Cégep de Jonquière, added the carbon neutrality dimension. As a CEGEP, we have a duty to be exemplary in the fight against climate change, ”said the former MP for Jonquière and ex-critic of the environmental file.

Cégep parking lots are full to bursting with cars used solo, a more glaring problem in the region, given the distances. His team is working with the Société de transport du Saguenay to improve the accessibility and reliability of public transit to the CEGEP, in short, to create an eco-mobility corridor there. The cégep is also working to make a complete inventory of its greenhouse gases (GHG) and to reduce its energy consumption, he says.

Sylvain Gaudreault does not prevent himself from asserting his green ambitions in public, as at the recent Aluminum Summit, where he was present as a provider of future employees, among others.

More generally, he judges that politicians do not have enough climate ambition, that they are too fearful. “There is a lack of major public climate policies. You have to take the climate out of the environment. The climate issue must be the responsibility of the Prime Minister and not the Minister of the Environment,” he told me between sips, at Le Falco café, rue de Gaspé, in Montreal.

Why such governance? Because the problems of global warming affect all public dimensions, he argues, all ministries, whether we think of Transport, Health, Agriculture, Municipal Affairs, Economy or Forests . The Minister of the Environment has too little power in this context.

He gives the example of his position against GNL Quebec, in his region, this natural gas project from the West which was to be liquefied in the Saguenay and then exported. He says he was shouted down, but also applauded.

It takes a climate-focused party, he says, that makes it an exciting, motivating, positive project. The Coalition avenir Quebec ended up giving up LNG in Saguenay and the third link in Quebec, but reluctantly, out of spite.

The Green Party failed and Quebec Solidaire is proposing a social project on the left with a “polarizing, even moralizing” discourse on the climate plan, says Sylvain Gaudreault, who remains a member of the Parti Québécois.

But then, shouldn’t the PQ change the first article of its program and put the fight against climate change ahead of Quebec’s independence? Doesn’t Quebec have more influence on the future of Canadian oil and GHGs by being a member of Confederation?

“The easy answer is no. I am a separatist,” says Mr. Gaudreault, who argues that Quebec would have a greater impact on the environment if it had its place at the table of nations by being independent. For LNG, for example, Quebec could ultimately have been subject to the federal will.

He gives the example of storm Fiona in the Magdalen Islands.

Citizens must also agree to change their way of life, particularly in terms of transport, food and travel. He does not give himself as an example, but he tells me, walking towards the metro after the interview, that he traveled from Saguenay to Montreal with his electric car, “proof that it is possible to have an electric vehicle in the region”.

Those long drives require him to make stops for recharging, of course, so what? “I’m not blaming anyone, but it’s like people would rather hold on to their way of life than our planet,” he told me during the interview.

Sylvain Gaudreault is an environmentalist, but as he wrote in his book Pragmatic: when the climate dictates political action, published in September 2021, he believes that a just transition is needed, which compensates the losers. This was the case, he says, when the PQ set up a development fund for the region which suffered from the closure of the Gentilly nuclear power plant.

Politics over, really? He assures me that yes, but by torturing him with questions, we understand that a unifying party on the climate in Quebec and made up of headliners would not leave him indifferent. Here then…

1. Coffee and me: I love my ritual of picking up my two daily lattes at Café chez Ginette, run by the Cégep de Jonquière student association. It is a privileged moment of exchange with the students.

2. The last book I read: The Disunited Kingdom by Jonathan Coe. He has a realistic yet humorous way of portraying the hopes, contradictions, and disappointments of Generation X, to which I belong.

3. The house I would like to live in: Farnsworth House, by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Less is more…

4. The deceased politicians I would like to invite for an aperitif on my quay in Laterrière: Jean Jaurès, Nelson Mandela and Simone Veil.

5. My favorite cultural event: Art Hop in Burlington, Vermont, the first weekend after Labor Day.