Volume 92, Issue 51
Thursday, December 3, 1998
Quebec election a blessing in disguise
So what happened in Quebec? Canada sent the "great hope," Jean Charest, to save Quebec from the evil hands of Lucien Bouchard and it failed. Or did it?
The people of Quebec clearly did not make separation a big issue in this election. Although the Parti Quebecois has gained a solid majority of seats in the National Assembly, the popular vote did lean towards Charest and the Liberals. This clearly indicates that Qubecers voted for the Parti Quebecois because they were happy with the direction in which Bouchard was taking the government. The people of Quebec want their leaders to pursue financial growth, secure jobs and a better health care system.
The issue of separation can now be put on the back burner. Bouchard did not receive the mandate to pursue another referendum. On the other hand, with Bouchard in power, perhaps the leaders of Canada and the provinces can focus on building jobs and better social programs, rather than concentrating on a new constitution.
The instability created during constitutional talks is not something Canadians need. It would rock a shaky Canadian dollar, reduce foreign interests in Canada and remove the focus from important domestic policies and legislation. Bouchard has no interest in bringing Quebec into the federal fold and it would be best for the powers that be not to waste resources on trying to do so.
Had Jean Charest been elected, at some point the constitution process would probably have started again. Working on a new constitutional package with Charest would have made sense because the negotiations would have had a chance at succeeding.
The potential short term affects caused by the instability during the negotiating process would not be nearly as bad because there would have been a light at the end of the tunnel. However, the bottom line is that Charest is not in the position to negotiate, but rather, he can only push Bouchard towards negotiations.
Where does this leave Charest? He dumped his party to take the weight of the federalists on his back and he came up short. If he sticks it out, he will likely end up as the premier of Quebec, but what about his future at the federal level where he has been working for years?
There is little room for him as leader of his old party and there is even less room for him on the Grits side with Paul Martin waiting in the wings for Chretien to step aside. He may never get his chance to be the prime minister which would have almost been guaranteed had he been able to bring Quebec into the constitution.
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