Volume 91, Issue 89

Wednesday, March 18, 1998

Leave it to Weaver


Can Charest save the day?

Will Jean Charest be the saviour of Canada?

Since the exit of Daniel Johnson from Quebec's political scene, both the media and politicians have proclaimed that only Charest as leader of the Quebec provincial Liberal Party can save the destruction of the nation.

Unfortunately, while many high-ranking politicians are dubbing Charest as the hero of nationalism as he prepares to announce his candidacy for the Quebec Liberal Party leadership, the title of scape goat seems more fitting.

With no mandate or game-plan to work from, Charest has been forced into a difficult corner and has no choice but to make the move to Quebec politics. If he dares to turn away from federal politics this late in the game, he faces the risk that separatists will be the victors in the next referendum – consequently labeling himself as the man who destroyed Canada.

It is unfortunate that no one in the House of Commons wants to take the blame for not addressing the issue earlier. They ignored the bleak situation in Quebec with no stand-out candidate to take over for Johnson – and they knew Johnson could not win the election. They have known for years that the Parti Quebecois, if re-elected during this summer's provincial elections, would once again set out a question of separation for the Quebec people to answer.

Charest has been named captain of a team with no strategy to win and no team-cohesion to rely on.

One man who has promised teamwork between Quebec and the rest of Canada is Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. He has publicly stated he will endorse Charest once he has proclaimed his candidacy and commented that relations between the two unfriendly governments would be healthier if the Quebec people elect the newly-converted Liberal.

With political spin doctors keeping the federal government healthy with public opinion, Chrétien has passed the Quebec burden to Charest to save the country.

Make no mistake, Chrétien knows what is at stake. In 1995, his party faced near humiliation on the eve of the Quebec referendum and managed to squeak out a narrow margin of one per cent for the 'Yes' side.

Was there a lesson learned? Apparently not. Four years later his party has done little to make the people of Quebec feel patriotic towards the country as a whole and polls now indicate that the 'No' side has gathered momentum heading into the summer months.

There needs to be a long-term solution instead of band-aid answers. Instead of correcting the situation years ago, the federal government has washed their hands clean and left the burden for one individual. Hopefully this lesson will not be repeated if the issue arises again.

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