A new government in Quebec City has opened the door, and now Canada's former governor-general, Michaëlle Jean, is mounting a bid to lead a major international organization, la Francophonie.
With support from Canada and her native Haiti, she will immediately be a leading candidate to become secretary-general of the 57-member organization this November.
Ms. Jean has been sizing up a campaign for the organization's top job for months, but until recently she lacked a key ingredient: the backing of the government in Ottawa.
Quebec, which has its own seat at the Francophonie table, was until April run by a Parti Québécois government that was cool to the idea of Canada's former viceroy running the world's French-language organization. Stephen Harper, never a fan of Ms. Jean as governor-general and wary of taking on international campaigns and losing, held back.
But the election of a federalist government in Quebec City that is enthusiastic about Ms. Jean's candidacy has led Mr. Harper to endorse her. Now, Ms. Jean is throwing her hat in the ring.
"The government of Canada has decided to support my candidacy, and is formalizing that now," Ms. Jean confirmed in a telephone interview from Haiti.
In diplomatic circles, Ms. Jean already had a private coming-out party at a recent reception hosted by Belgium's ambassador to Canada, where she told dignitaries and diplomats from Francophonie countries that she was running – and Ottawa's endorsement was coming.
Last Thursday, Mr. Harper raised her candidacy with French President François Hollande at the G7 summit in Brussels, sources said. That was to ensure Mr. Hollande had no objection, to prevent a rift between the Francophonie's major sponsors.
Now, Ms. Jean will enter the race with formal endorsement of all three Canadian governments that are members of the organization – Ottawa, Quebec, and New Brunswick – as well as enthusiastic support from Haiti.
For a long time, it appeared her candidacy might not get off the ground because of qualms from the former Parti Québécois government in Quebec City.
Ms. Jean said she heard mixed signals. Some members of the PQ government told her she would be a good candidate, she said, recalling that she once met informally with former PQ premier Pauline Marois, and asked to discuss the Francophonie with her, garnering a gracious response.
"But then I'd hear other noises that said, 'Yes, but Michaëlle Jean's a federalist, the former governor-general of Canada – over their dead body,'" she laughed. The Liberal government that replaced them responded to her candidacy with "a great deal of warmth," she noted.
Some close to the matter say Mr. Harper's endorsement appeared less than wholehearted. His advisers were never fans of the glamorous governor-general, and clashed with her over prorogation. He is also said to be wary of such campaigns since Canada lost its bid for the UN Security Council. But new Quebec Liberal Premier Philippe Couillard was keen.
Ms. Jean's chances depend on who else runs. Most votes come from Africa, where Mr. Harper's government lost the UN vote. A high-profile African candidate would have an advantage.
Ms. Jean noted she bridges the organization's north-south divide, with roots in Haiti and Canada. She did diplomacy as governor-general, worked on partnerships between the University of Ottawa and African universities, and on education and cultural development in Haiti.
Those experiences convinced her the Francophonie has crucial work to do with young people and women, she said. "This is not a personal story. It's not a career plan," she said. "There's real work to be done."