Friday, September 7, 2012

Quebec Liberal Party leader Jean Charest resigns

After losing the recent election to the opposition Parti Quebecois the Quebec premier and Liberal Party Leader Jean Charest has resigned.
As often happens in Canadian politics Charest switched parties during his long career. From 1993 to 1998 Charest was leader of the federal Conservative party. He then switched to the Quebec Liberal Party and became head of that party in 1998 until he resigned. The fact that party switches of this sort take place may indicate that the great differences between parties emphasized in the media may be mostly an illusion. The former New Democratic Party premier of Manitoba Gary Doer resigned and became Canadian ambassador to the U.S. appointed by the Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper. The present leader of the federal New Democratic Party. Thomas Mulcair, was a minister in the Quebec Liberal government of Charest until 2007 when he switched to the NDP.
Although the Liberals did better in the provincial election than the last polls predicted Charest lost his own seat in Sherbrooke. He also lost the election by a narrow margin to the PQ who managed to win just 4 seats more than the Liberals at last count. Charest had held his seat for 28 years before his defeat. He said that he and his family had made the decision that he retire shortly after the results were in.
Charest had the support of the majority of Quebeckers in his decision to increase tuition fees. However legislation to increase the fees resulted in constant student protests sometimes involving violence. However, the legislation that restricted protests and imposed stiff fines for violating regulations brought condemnation from civil rights and labor groups. Charest's Liberal government was also plagued by corruption charges especially in the construction industry. At the entrance to the Quebec National Assembly Charest said
:"The decision was unanimous. I will leave my post as leader of the Liberal Party of Quebec in a few days, once a new government is formed...I have no regrets."
Charest, who is 54, does not leave behind an obvious replacement but there were 50 members re-elected and many of its prominent members were included so there will be a number of politicians who could rebuild the party. Charest has not set out his future plans but many premiers and former prime ministers from Quebec end up in prominent law firms acting as consultants. Charest's wife and grown children wanted him not to run for a fourth term.
While during much of the period of Charest's Liberal government there was economic prosperity and even a balanced budge he often came into conflict with environmentalists and labor unions. Charest's final term was marked by continuing scandals and charges of unethical behavior on the part of some of his cabinet ministers. Charges were made that government contracts were the result of fraud and vote rigging. However, Charest, a federalist, kept the forces of separatism at bay in Quebec for many years. Even now as he resigns a mere 28 per cent of Quebeckers support separatism.
Charest is doing his party a favor. They will have time to regroup and elect a new leader. If Marois tries to forge ahead with a separatist agenda the Liberals could very well find themselves back in power in the near future since the minority PQ government could be defeated if CAQ is annoyed by legislation promoted by the PQ and they and the Liberals vote against the PQ.

No comments: