Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Memo to Jean Charest: December Elections May Be Hazardous for Your Health, and Not Just Because of Slippery Sidewalks

Quebec is abuzz with the news that a provincial general election will be called next week for December 8. The population doesn’t seemed thrilled with the idea—“Oh come on, not again!” “What a waste of money!” were two comments broadcast from streeter interviews by the CBC—but Premier Jean Charest seems to think things are going to get a lot worse and it’s worth a gamble to try to win a majority now.

This morning we were greeted by one of the big arguments against an election this time of year—snow. Only the lawns currently are white in our neighborhood—sidewalks and streets remain warm enough for snow to melt immediately—but in outlying areas as much as 10 cm were reported. One of my first experiences in politics was in an election this time of year—the one held December 2, 1985 when Liberals led by Robert Bourassa beat the incumbent Parti Québécois led by Pierre-Marc Johnson. It was Bourassa’s second mandate—he’d been premier from 1970 to 1976 when his Liberals lost to René Lévesque’s PQ.

That was not a fun campaign, and I don’t expect one this December would be a joy either. Before he calls an election, Charest might be wise to remember the downside of Bourassa’s victory in 1985: he lost his own seat. In order to sit in the National Assembly Bourassa had to win a by-election called in January 1986 in the safe seat of Saint-Laurent whose MNA obligingly stepped down.

Charest might also reflect on the irony of his appointment of Pierre-Marc Johnson to head a delegation from Quebec scheduled to go to China next month which Charest had planned to lead himself. Johnson was deposed—flushé, as they say here—shortly after the 1985 debacle, but he’s found a new role as an elder statesman. There is life after politics—for some people, at least. Will Charest be forced to find out for himself?

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