Quebec finance minister leaving politics

Wed Apr 8, 2009 4:58pm EDT
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Quebec Finance Minister Monique Jerome-Forget announced on Wednesday that she was resigning and would leave politics, less than a month after bringing down the province's first major deficit budget in more than a decade.

Jerome-Forget -- who had been in the job for two years -- came under heavy pressure earlier this year over record losses at Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, Canada's biggest pension fund manager.

"I am leaving in a calm manner. I will rediscover my family, my grandchildren, my daughter, my husband -- all the people I love dearly and who have supported me," she told a televised news conference in Quebec City.

Premier Jean Charest quickly appointed Economic Development Minister Raymond Bachand, a former separatist, to replace her, Quebec media reported.

The province's Liberal government said last month that the worsening global crisis meant it would run budget deficits for the next four years. Critics accused Jerome-Forget of not doing enough to cope with the recession.

They also blamed her for problems at the Caisse, which lost C$39.8 billion ($32.1 billion) in 2008 -- a quarter of its value. She denied opposition accusations that the Liberals had pushed the fund to make risky investments in a bid to boost returns.

($1=$1.24 Canadian)

(Reporting by David Ljunggren and Randall Palmer; editing by Peter Galloway)

 
<p>Quebec's Finance Minister Monique Jerome-Forget gestures as she unveils her budget at the National Assembly in Quebec City, March 19, 2009. REUTERS/Jacques Boissinot/Pool</p>