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Charest shuffles top economist into cabinet Add to ...

Premier Jean Charest rejigged his cabinet on Tuesday to give a job to a high-profile economist who won a safe Liberal seat in a by-election.

Clement Gignac, a former chief economist at National Bank, was named Economic Development Minister after his easy victory in the Montreal riding of Marguerite-Bourgeoys on Monday.

Mr. Gignac's appointment will free up Raymond Bachand to concentrate on the key finance portfolio.

Mr. Charest also played musical chairs with a few cabinet ministers, including Nathalie Normandeau, who remains deputy premier while switching to natural resources from municipal affairs.

Mr. Charest said now was not the time for a major cabinet overhaul given that the general election was held only last December.

"At this point adjustments were required and called for," he said in Quebec City.

"And in the bigger scheme of things in the life of a government usually there are opportunities for a bigger change."

Ms. Normandeau's replacement in municipal affairs is outgoing agriculture minister Laurent Lessard, who in turn is being succeeded by ex-natural resources minister Claude Bechard.

Mr. Bechard also becomes intergovernmental affairs minister.

Jean D'Amour, the Liberal party president who won Monday's by-election in Riviere-du-Loup, was shut out.

Riviere-du-Loup had been an Action démocratique du Quebec stronghold since 1994 when Mario Dumont began his string of five consecutive election victories in the riding northeast of Quebec City.

The ADQ candidate pulled in less than 15 per cent of the vote on Monday to finish a distant third behind Mr. D'Amour and Parti Québécois candidate Paul Crete.

The party won just seven of the province's 125 ridings in December and saw its representation in the national assembly reduced to six when Mr. Dumont quit politics a few months ago.

But Mr. Charest wasn't suggesting on Tuesday the party would soon be extinct.

"I'm not predicting the disappearance of the ADQ," the Premier said. "I don't belong to the school of thought that predicts the disappearance of political parties.

"The ADQ has had highs and lows. Quebeckers have voted for the ADQ and that choice must be respected."

Mr. Charest said that if he took anything away from Monday's by-election victories, it was that voters appeared to have placed their trust in his economic policies.

"With Clement, we're strengthening our economic team," he said. "Economy is the issue these days. Employment is the top priority. We are an economic-oriented government."

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