I meet the young strategist outside the TVA studio in Québec City, where he works as a political correspondent. Harold, who is also a public affairs consultant and student in Université Laval’s executive MBA program, worked in the office of Québec Premier Philippe Couillard from 2014 to 2018, first as director of communications and spokesperson, then as director of international and Canadian relations. He has the schedule of a busy parliamentarian. Formerly a football player at the high school, CEGEP and university levels, Harold has the build of a linebacker—but these days, he prefers tackling ideas and engaging in debate.
An expert in public policy, Harold is a likable, spontaneous individual with an easy smile. He draws us into a conversation about major national issues and the country’s values and future. For those who follow him on TV and in print, Harold is notable for his quick mind, his many different interests, his curiosity and his talent as a forward-thinking strategist.
Born in Montréal in February 1980 and fluent in French, English and Creole, Harold was raised in the culture of his Haiti-born parents. His father, a high school teacher, and his mother, an educator for people with intellectual disabilities, were both practicing Catholics and taught him the meaning of the word “compassion.”
Music figured prominently in his childhood. He was a member of the Maîtrise des Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal choir until Grade 12. His musical training is reflected today in his appreciation for a broad range of genres: classical, soundtracks, a cappella, R&B, jazz and hip-hop.
Throughout his studies at Collège Notre-Dame (Montréal), Collège André-Grasset (Montréal) and the John-Molson School of Business at Concordia University, he continued to play competitive football. During his university studies from 2000 to 2005, he discovered another kind of competition: his involvement in student associations and the Québec Liberal Party’s Youth Commission led him into the world of politics. In 2004, he cut his teeth in the office of the Minister of Health and Social Services at that time, Philippe Couillard, where he oversaw youth-related issues. Through 2012, he held a series of roles, including political advisor, press secretary and assistant chief of staff for six different ministers in the Québec Liberal Party government.
His favourite memories from this time are of election campaigns: “Meeting people, listening to them, understanding their reality and sharing our vision… that was really educational and rewarding.”
During his four years in the Premier’s office, he took part in over 50 international missions. Having rubbed shoulders with heads of state and their staffs, he professes a certain admiration for various leaders. “The best are those who demonstrate intellectual rigour in their handling of issues, who have empathy for others and who are very flexible when it comes to making decisions for the benefit of future generations,” he believes. “Despite their faults, the likes of Emmanuel Macron, Theresa May and Al Gore share these attributes of great leaders and the ability to anticipate change rather than react to it.”
Turning to the question of the government’s role, he raises the key issue of the environment. “Yes, we can balance the needs of the economy and the environment—by limiting greenhouse gas emissions, of course, but also by moving forward with the transition to renewable energy. The green economy is booming. It’s true that the economic model in Western Canada, based in part on the development of hydrocarbons, is different from that in Québec or Ontario. But once it’s been proven to a segment of the population that pivoting to renewable energy will be profitable, the country as a whole will be able to evolve in that direction,” he comments.
“Given the challenges that exist in relations between Western and Eastern Canada, between francophones and anglophones, between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, and between Québec and the rest of the country, the key to finding solutions for building equitable relationships that benefit everyone lies in listening, engaging in dialogue and understanding others’ point of view,” Harold notes. “To foster harmonious relations in our country, there needs to be more economic, cultural, social and even musical exchange between the different pieces of the great Canadian mosaic.”
Proud of his Haitian roots and his identity as a Quebecer and francophone, Harold acknowledges that he has been a victim of racism, both as a student and in his role today as a public figure.
“The administrators of our democracy and the leaders of our society have a responsibility to condemn prejudice, to promote equality of opportunity and to support citizens who belong to disenfranchised or racialized cultural groups. People of colour and minority groups should be more strongly represented in government institutions and organizations. It’s essential for cultural groups to have inspirational role models. But first and foremost, winning the battle against discrimination is founded on improved living conditions, education and access to good jobs for disenfranchised groups,” he adds.
In closing, this charismatic public figure quotes Philippe Couillard: “To affirm your identity or affiliation, you do not need to eliminate, diminish or reject someone else’s. On the contrary, you should assert it with confidence, tolerance and optimism.”
Harold’s message for youth is inspiring. This is what he has to say: “Don’t be afraid of not succeeding. Experiencing failure is also an opportunity to improve yourself. You should take your time when making choices about your life and do what you truly love. Learn to be happy with what you have and with those around you.”