Charest missed his opportunity

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

In 2003, Quebec premier Jean Charest was handed a golden opportunity when he was elected to a majority government. Nine years after a referendum nearly tore the country in half, separatism seemed to be declining.

Then Charest forgot what his job was. The bottom line for Quebec federalists was their first priority: keeping the province part of Canada. Separatism was unpopular, and all Charest had to do was keep it that way. Simple enough, right?

Apparently not.

Charest broke election promises to lower taxes. He backpedaled on his vow to separate cities merged by the Parti Quebecois government. He raised hydro rates and insurance premiums and imposed new taxes on businesses. He spent the beginning of his term pushing through painful legislation.

Usually, it’s admirable to see a politician doing what he feels is necessary, especially at his own expense, but not when his main job is staying popular.

Fast forward to Monday. Suddenly, the Liberal â€" or should I say, federalist â€" majority is gone. Charest is lucky just to have won his own riding, and the Parti Quebecois holds a large balance of power as the swing vote in a Liberal minority.

The Action Democratique’s (ADQ) status as the official opposition signifies the province isn’t content with the separatist Parti Quebecois, but it also shows the electorate’s dissatisfaction with the federalist Liberals.

The support of federal politicians like Stephen Harper for the ADQ’s success ignores the fact that, while the ADQ isn’t explicitly separatist, it also doesn’t actively endorse federalism.

The majority of Quebec parliament is uncommitted to federalism, if not explicitly separatist, and if Charest doesn’t play his cards right, the PQ or ADQ could be popping champagne on an election win in the near future.

Thank Charest for that. All he had to do was to live up to a few promises, but I guess that was too much to ask.

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