[Entrevue] No mea culpa for culture minister Nathalie Roy

Nathalie Roy’s time at the Ministry of Culture was not a long, calm river. With a pandemic hitting the community hard, the minister had her hands full with heritage issues and a slow-moving reform of the artist’s status. But in the end, the main interest stubbornly defends its balance sheet and does not recognize any gross mistakes.

“Outside of the pandemic, I’ve done pretty much everything I wanted to do. Sometimes it took longer than usual. But everything I said I would do, I did. I kept my word,” says Nathalie Roy, who is pleased, among other things, that after years of waiting she was able to unanimously pass her new law on the status of the artist.

But his greatest pride is having loosened budgets during the pandemic to salvage a cultural environment that has been strained by successive restrictions. In the end, the industry will never have been so inundated with all kinds of help, including in the audiovisual sector, even if the film sets did not have to pause for long. Irrespective of this, these investments are essential, emphasizes the minister.

“Yes, that strategy was questionable, and it was questioned at that. But I wanted to make sure that when we resumed, all of our cultural institutions would be there. It wasn’t easy, but we really gave it our all. I didn’t want anyone to lose. In this respect, my strategy has paid off,” explains Nathalie Roy. The number of film shoots in Quebec will hit record levels this summer, and ticket sales for indoor shows have picked up speed in the face of the fall, she revealed in a telephone interview The duty.

Despite our repeated requests, this detailed interview with the minister took some time. Nathalie Roy has striven for discretion in the media for the past four years. In Quebec, the culture minister’s distrust of the press is an open secret. A reaction that might surprise comes from an ex-journalist, formerly the star moderator of TQS.

“It’s not my job to be in the limelight, but to ensure that the artists stand up every day,” replies the man who has been a member of the National Assembly since 2012.

Nathalie Roy, Minister for Culture since the CAQ’s election in 2018, has nonetheless found herself in the spotlight on a few occasions, and not always for the right reasons.

At the beginning of her tenure, many political scientists saw her as a weak link in the Council of Ministers. In September 2019, the Prime Minister took the French language file from him and gave it to Simon Jolin-Barrette.

During the same period, there were successive resignations from the ministry and its cabinet. In four years, Nathalie Roy will have known no fewer than four chiefs of staff and three deputy ministers. “It’s the same in all departments. There’s always a lot of movement,” she says, downplaying the situation without going into the subject any further.

Several community stakeholders also admit that they had difficulties in connecting with the ministry during the first two years of the legislature. Behind the scenes, we remember a deleted minister not feeling comfortable with the files of the hour. However, the pandemic will mark a turning point.

“We have to admit that we had a good relationship from day one of the pandemic. The problem in normal times, and this applies to all governments, is that there are too many actors between the artists and the ministry. But then we didn’t have time to tuck ourselves into the flowers of the carpet. We were in direct communication, and that’s why we were so effective,” says the president of the Union des Artistes, Sophie Prégent, who even goes so far as to openly wish for the renewal of Nathalie Roy’s mandate for culture after the next elections.

Heritage, a central theme

Even the opposition recognizes that the minister was able to snag record budgets for culture during the health crisis. We also welcome the passage of the new Artist Status Act earlier this month, which comes with all sorts of new workplace protections for artists.

But Québec Solidaire and the Liberal Party reiterate that legacy has been the minister’s Achilles’ heel for the past four years. Certainly a new law has been passed to better protect the built heritage, but opposition parties claim it doesn’t have enough bite. The last mandate will have been marked, among other things, by controversial demolitions such as those of the Boileau house in Chambly or, more recently, the Domaine-de-l’Estérel.

“Previous ministers have not applied the law in terms of the sanctions and prosecutions that are possible in court [contre les propriétaires qui procèdent unilatéralement à la démolition d’immeubles classés]. Well, we started it,” Nathalie Roy replies.

On the subject of heritage, liberal cultural critic Christine St-Pierre also recalls the full story of the Maison Chevalier, that historic building in Old Quebec that was sold to the Tanguay family for $2.2 million last fall. “For me, that remains his biggest mistake. That will stay. I still can’t believe that we sold such a valuable building, in which Quebecers have invested heavily, to private prospects,” the MNA for Acadie deeply regrets.

But Nathalie Roy does not move: the sale of Maison Chevalier to Groupe Tanguay was the right decision given the circumstances. The building remains protected, and the Tanguay family has pledged to open the vaults to the public, she notes.

What is certain is that monument protection will remain a major topic in the next four years. Will Nathalie Roy remain culture minister? Rumor has it that Prime Minister Legault plans to remove him from the Council of Ministers if re-elected. There is even talk of her for the post of President of the National Assembly.

“When I read that, I thought it was very funny. Rumors are just rumours. My only wish is to continue being an MP, ”assures the one who has already announced that next October she will seek a fourth term in riding Montarville, in the Montreal region of the south coast.

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