Charest Takes Lead Of Quebec Liberals

Politics can be a dirty backstabbing game, but this time the scales are shifted to the other side in an almost favorable way for Jean Charest.

MEDIA, 04/13/98: OUR FEARLESS LEADERS Now listen carefully. I want you to take a slow easy breath in and let that breath escape effortlessly from your body. I want you to relax your shoulders, and arms as you let your hand fall away from whatever clicks you from screen to screen.

Don't be afraid. I am going to talk about Canadian politics.

Wait! Breathe! I know that simply combining Canadian and politics can make even the most determined among us drift slowly into bored, sullen incomprehension. But dig this, Jean Charest is now a liberal. How bizarre is that? When the leader of one party (in this case the federal progressive conservatives, how's that for an oxymoron) jumps so effortlessly to lead another (Quebec liberals) it makes one think of lice jumping from one infected pubis to another 'cuz to lice they are all the same; but politics, well, its supposed to be a bit more complex than that.

Now maybe my dose is just starting to kick in but isn't the point of multi-party cabinet style government to provide parties that offer a clear alternative to voters? Isn't it the job of the leader of that party to define and implement the policies and principles that so differentiate his or her particular party from the other seemingly vastly different alternatives? Otherwise, there's no real point to a multi-party system.

What's a girl to think? Are there guiding party principles or just shifting general tendencies? I'm starting to suspect that politicians may not be as honest and committed as they promise in their campaigns. I'm starting to believe that a corporate agenda may have some influence on politics and that public relations and opinion polls are used not to inform but to manipulate. No this can't be true, after all this is a democracy where instead of a ruling elite we are promised elected officials accountable to no-one but those who elected them. Remember that joke: I'm a politician and I have principles. If you don't like them, I have other principles. Not so funny now, eh.

Oh look. It's 1996 and Charest is getting pawed at Christmas cocktail parties by members of the Magog Mafia (the powerful Quebec business creeps who own weekend getaways in the rolling hills southeast of Montreal where, by the by, Charest also has a place). All the guy wants to do is eat some shortbread have a few drinks & share a dead animal or two with his friends and loved ones. Can he? No, these guys keep culling him from the pack at every social function. "Jean," they fervently whisper, "oh, Jean. Come back to us. Lead the liberal party." Charest throws back his curls and defiantly asks "what about Daniel Johnson? What about my conservative friends, what will they think if we're seen together?"

Your conservative friends indeed, and what about Daniel Johnson, at the time he was leader of the Quebec liberals and seemed very happy there. Little did he know the business elites that fund his party and future campaigns had their eye on our Jean. After all Lucien Bouchard, leader of the Bloc Quebecois, is a pretty charismatic guy (losing a leg to flesh eating bacteria, makes him seem kinda freaky and cool) and Daniel Johnson, well, he's not. Under Johnson it was looking like the next provincial election would find the liberals reduced from 47 butts in a 125 butt assembly to 29, mostly non-francophone, butts. The possibility of Bouchard succeeding with another sovereignty referendum makes business investors queasy and this grim prediction for the liberals increased the likelihood of that success.

Still, Charest has never been a shy boy when it comes to dissin' Quebec politics which he complains are narrow, nasty and claustrophobic; sounds like dinner with my folks. Once at the PC. helm he knew that his main hold on party power was his connection with Quebec and the $$ and votes that this connection sucked into the party. Well one afternoon last fall a little birdie flies in the window and squawks to Charest, "your support in Quebec will shrivel like an old man's dick if you pass up this liberal leadership thing." Drat! No Quebec means he's down to charm and good looks and well, I'm not saying he's short on both but he's not every girls' idea of a dream date.

But rich boys aren't girls and those wealthy wankers knew that this francophone Irish lout, known for his outspoken views on both the rights of Quebec and the need for a unified Canada, was still the perfect man for the job of attracting voters to the liberals.

The kicker for Charest was the June 1997 federal election. It was assumed that Charest would come out of it leader of the opposition. Tough break, things go very wrong and, I can barely bring myself to say it, Preston Manning and his Reform Party form the opposition. Now, that's gotta hurt. Really, its gotta be hard when you expect to be elected prom queen but you come home covered in pigs blood and you know that it's not coming out.

So, with his career in federal politics looking like it would close in an impotent whimper- two words no man wants applied to him or his, ya know, career- and some lubed up rich boys offering him fame and a job well, it's not so hard to figure out what convinced Mr. Charest to make like lice and jump.

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