As a senior manager at the National Bank for some 20 years, risk assessment and management have been at the heart of Éric Girard’s work.
Trained in economics and finance at McGill and Université du Québec à Montréal, Girard says he looked at the numbers and figured the time was right to leap into politics.
Girard has taken a nine-month leave from the bank, where for the past three years he has been its treasurer, to seek the Conservative nomination in Lac-Saint-Louis riding.
“There is not one Conservative MP in the whole region of Montreal, and that is unacceptable. Montreal needs to be represented in the government,” he says.
He rates Mount Royal and Lac-Saint-Louis as having the best chances for the Tories to stage an upset, and he opted for the latter because “good candidates” are already vying for the Mount Royal nomination.
It is far from a slam dunk, however, since he’s competing with a well-entrenched local figure, Peter Fletcher – a financial consultant with expertise in risk management, the outgoing president of the Conservative riding association, and Baie d’Urfé town councilor.
Lac-Saint-Louis – Beaconsfield, Pointe Claire, Baie-d’Urfé, Kirkland, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Senneville and the western part of Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough – is considered a safe Liberal seat, but the Liberal share of the vote has diminished since ex-MP Clifford Lincoln won massive majorities there.
We met Girard for the first time at a Monkland Ave. café and, careful manager that he is, Girard began by querying me on my journalistic background. We then turned to his biography, and his move to set aside a successful career to risk it in “retail” politics.
Girard was raised in Ste. Foy, now part of Quebec City. His father, born to a large working class family in Lac St. Jean, is a corporate lawyer; his mother, born in St. Félicien, is a Special Ed professional.
Knowing little English, Girard moved to Montreal to study in an honours program at McGill. He says his talent in mathematics earned high marks and his English improved in debates as a member of the student Liberal club.
He got his Honours B.Com. Degree but remembers disagreeing with major Liberal policies at the time: Girard supported Brian Mulroney’s push for free trade with the U.S. and the doomed Meech Lake Accord.
“I always found myself on the Conservative side,” he recalled.
His first job was with Trizec Corp, the real estate holding company, but with the real estate crisis of 1989, his bosses enabled him to study three days a week for a master’s degree at Université du Québec à Montréal.
After a year at the Bank of Canada, he joined the National Bank and rose to its highest executive level. He’s been responsible for the bank’s structural interest-rate risk and liquidity funding.
Last year he told his employers he was eager for a stab at politics. “My kids are older, 14 and 13. I’ve made some money, I have more independence, and I am ready.”
Should Girard be nominated, he’ll face off against Scarpaleggia and NDP candidate Ryan Young, 43, a John Abbott College teacher in his second term as a Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue city councilor.
The bank gave him a leave of absence until the end of the year and Girard has begun meeting people involved in community affairs to better understand their concerns.
Living in Mount Royal with his wife, Sherbrooke-born Chantale Landry, an interior designer, daughter Félicité and son Louis-Charles, Girard said he chose Lac-Saint-Louis because “I think I can win there.”
Apart from the fact his daughter plays hockey in the West Island – Girard coaches the team, and son plays baseball there, he sees broad affinities between his own lifestyle in Mount Royal, his outlook and the area’s culture: He’s a staunch federalist, an avid skier and tennis player. He says a robust economy is his main focus politically.
In his first contacts, he noted West Island residents would like what he has in Mount Royal – a ten-minute walk to the Canora AMT station where, since 1999, he boards the morning train at 6:21 am and is downtown by 6:30. “People in the West Island are not happy with train service,” he notes, stopping short of saying he can promise federal aid to improve the situation.
People also want government policies so that “when our kids graduate, they stay here.
“I offer my experience, my competence as a manager. I offer my stewardship – careful, responsible management of our country.
“Canada has outperformed all the countries in the G7 group since 2007, when it comes to growth and employment. That is an undeniable sign of positive management.”
He likes the fact that Canada receives about 250,000 immigrants a year and that free trade deals are expanding beyond the Americas.
Girard looked at the results of the last election and noted that Liberal Scarpaleggia won his fourth term with 34 per cent of the vote, 2,000 more than the NDP candidate and 3,000 votes more than the third-placed Conservative, Larry Smith.
“On the level of statistics, a margin of less than 5,000 votes can be reversed, in any riding in Canada.”
At the bank, he has never heard any bank economists complain when the Harper government scrapped the compulsory long-form census. It has been much criticized by statisticians because most consider data from voluntary responses less valid.
As for the Harper government scrapping the long-gun registry and refusing to turn over data to Quebec, Girard says, “it seems it was an exceptional waste of public funds. That’s why it was cancelled.” He had no opinion on its refusal to turn over the data to Quebec.
When it comes to the Conservative “tough-on- crime” policies at a time when violent crime is decreasing steadily in Canada, Girard says, “The Conservative government has promised to improve the security of Canadians and I believe sincerely this is what Canadians, and voters in Lac-Saint-Louis, want.”
No date has been set for the nomination meeting.