National Newswatch

DAKAR, Senegal - The federal minister responsible for la Francophonie says Michaelle Jean would be an excellent choice as secretary-general of the organization that represents the French-speaking world.

"Madame Jean has led an optimal campaign, a careful one," Christian Paradis said of the former governor general.

"She has gone where she had to in terms of canvassing (support) and we think she is the candidate who can bring la Francophonie into the 21st century with the various challenges facing the new generation."

Jean, 57, is one of five candidates seeking to replace the outgoing Abdou Diouf as head of la Francophonie.

The organization's summit begins in Dakar, Senegal, on Saturday and ends Sunday, the day the new secretary-general is chosen.

Jean made two public appearances on Friday — one at an event with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and another with Prime Minister Stephen Harper as he announced Canadian money for a vaccine program.

Her spokesman, Louis Hamman, turned down requests for an interview with Jean, who was governor general between 2005 and 2010.

"We'll see what her availabilites are," said Hamman. "She has a pretty busy schedule. Obviously, we'd like to speak to you and we'll see under what circumstances it will be possible."

All Jean said at the event with Couillard was that her campaign has been an "exciting" experience."

Later on Friday, Harper met with Couillard and New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant, with the prime minister's office saying the three leaders "reiterated their unshakeable support for Madame Jean's candidacy."

Jean is also being endorsed by her native Haiti, but it remains to be seen how many other members of la Francophonie will back her.

She has travelled to several countries in the past few months to promote her candidacy.

According to Harper's office, the Foreign Affairs Department has spent $55,000 so far on travel expenses during Jean's campaign.

The Quebec government is providing logistical support in the form of Hamman, who refused to say Friday how much it has cost so far.

La Francophonie has 57 members or associate members, while another 20 jurisdictions have observer status.

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