Charest’s credibility gap

Why it’s getting harder and harder to give him the benefit of the doubt

Never mind that the inquiry Jean Charest called to look into judicial nominations in the province doesn’t get at the heart of the controversy surrounding his government—namely, that a former justice minister says he saw Liberal bagmen collecting cash donations to circumvent party donation rules. Even when it comes to the limited scope of Michel Bastarache’s inquiry, it’s getting hard to believe Charest isn’t already sunk, whether or not his government is eventually exonerated.

Consider the government’s confusion over whether or not the judicial nomination process was indeed changed after Charest’s election in 2003. The current minister’s own assistant tells Le Devoir the list of potential candidates for judgeships is shared with the provincial cabinet before the nomination is made. After the justice minister makes his or her recommendation, “the cabinet will look at the other candidates and make a decision,” she says. Under the previous system, the justice minister alone would make the final decision, though it would be presented to the cabinet as a “recommendation” which would then invariably rubber-stamp it.

Now, both Charest and Justice Minister Kathleen Weil have since come out and said Weil’s aide was mistaken. But the issue here is the same as it is between Charest and Bellemare: somebody’s lying and Charest isn’t likely to get the benefit of the doubt. Besides, if what Weil and Charest are saying is true, why would Transport Minister Norm MacMillan admit he once endorsed a party fundraiser’s son for a job as a judge back when Bellemare was justice minister? (For what it’s worth, Marc Bisson, MacMillan’s man, got the job.) Either cabinet members have a say or they don’t, right?

Consider, too, that this isn’t the first time the politicization of judicial nominations in Quebec have been the subject of some debate. In 2005, just as the sponsorship scandal was kicking into high gear, Benoit Corbeil alleged lawyers who worked on the federal Liberals’ 2000 campaign were rewarded with jobs as judges. (The provincial and federal Liberals are, of course, distinct parties, and federal and provincial judicial nominations don’t overlap. But still, it’s the second time high-level allegations have been levelled at political parties for corrupting the judicial nominations process in the last 5 years.) As Chantal Hébert points out, Bastarache’s own appointment as a Supreme Court justice was roundly criticized by opposition due to Bastarache’s ties to Jean Chrétien and the federal Liberals.

Finally, keep in mind this isn’t coming out of nowhere. Reports of favouritism and corruption related to everything from daycare permits to construction contracts have been popping up for the better part of a year now—hell, a new story involving the very same fundraiser linked to the cash donations Bellemare allegedly spotted came out just today!

The PQ has now taken to saying Quebec is run by a “clandestine” network of Liberal party donors and fundraisers. It may be typical opposition hyperbole, but Charest’s government is doing a mighty bad job of proving them wrong.




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Charest’s credibility gap

  1. The PQ has now taken to saying Quebec is run by a “clandestine” network of Liberal party donors and fundraisers. It may be typical opposition hyperbole, but Charest's government is doing a mighty bad job of proving them wrong.

    cause they cannot deny the truth?

    no wonder my local Liberal MLA and the others too never write back to me or acknowledge any of my serious, critical, important letters to them still. So what I too do now have to first give a large donation to the Liberal party before my MLA will next consider reading any of my complaints? It sure seems so!!!

  2. Hmmm….isn't Charest's boat sunk anyway? Quebec has the healthy democratic habit of not re-electing governments more than once anyway! I only wish that Alberta's voters would see the wisdom in this.

    • he's been re-elected for 3 terms now! The problem is the opposition is weak!

  3. I always figured Charest's teflon coating would protect him from harm, but this mess is so serious that there's a reasonably good chance it could do him in. That would be a shame, because the alternative, Mme Marois, is ten times worse.

    • The alternative isn't Marois but somebody from the PLQ taking over. With three years left, it's a great time for a change and this mess, they way it's unfoding, wouldn't surprise me if it was an inside putsch.

  4. Interesting. Is there anyone in particular who you think has a good chance of prevailing in a putsch scenario?

    • Jacques Dupuis could be the next in line, he has been there for a while. Julie Boulet in my opinion is blackballed, there are a series of allegations of corruption that have followed her political career since her election in '03. Raymond Bachand would have been an ideal candidate but his latest budget basically killed any chance of becoming Premier in the near future. Claude Béchard would also have been a good choice for Premier but the cancer he had beaten in 2008 returned earlier this year and he is still fighting the disease.

      • How about Couillard? Wasn't he the golden boy/dauphin before he left?

        Is there anybody from outside politics (or at least the provincial level) who might come forward?

        • Couillard was liked by the public but when he resigned as MLA and health minister, he joined a private health company as a lobbyist which sparked some controversy in the province, some called it unethical for him to do so only two months after being the minister in charge of health.

          The problem for the party right now is that most MLA have been there since Charest took power, I think right now the mistrust in Quebec is not only with Charest but with the entire party. Maybe the current health minister Yves Bolduc could be placed has Premier if a putsch would happen, he only has been there since summer of '08, he can claim that he was unaware of what was going on before he came in.

          I personally can't think of anyone right now from the outside who could come in to replace Charest, nobody wants to take control of the ship when she is sinking. Although maybe the mayor of Quebec City, Régis Labeaume could be their saving grace, he is loved not only by the population of Quebec city but also by much of the province. That said I do not see him going to the provincial level right now and for that matter do not know which party he favours.

          • Thanks for the info.

            I agree that I don't think le Maire LaBeaume would make the jump as he probably has a job for life right now. Plus he strikes me as more of populist type rather than part of the power circles that are part of the PLQ – which is part of the problem obviously.

          • how about Yves Seguin? Rebel finance minister from the liberals first term in office.

          • Nathalie Normandeau! She has no record of being involved in any of those scandals, she's competent, young, and people like her. Considering she is now deputy premier, i'm pretty sure she'd stand a good chance if she ran as a candidate if there were to be a leadership race.

    • Normandau is the only one who has the actual competences, legtimacy and experience. I mean, I understand it's only my opinion, but I think Nathalie is the shit™.

      But she was sent forward first and foremost and that tells me she isn't holding the knife. Other than that, who knows, because right now panic is ruling their world. But that they sent Normandau out this week is a pretty telling sign that something is afoot, I think. She didn't need to go, she has been sheltered lately because, like it or not , she *is* a big part of the party's future. But they asked her out and out she went.

      Other than that: Bachand is a phony, a crypto-péquiste. If they send him forward, it simply means they are punting the next election. As for Dupuis? Well, sure, why not. But the man has no clout, he doesn't have the acumen to do that. They live and die with Charest (not a bad bet if you ask me), or send everything Normandau's way. If they do anything else, they are cooked.

  5. So we should not question the PLC corruption because it's racist??? How stupid can you be? There is xenophobia in Québec, but is it a excuse?

    • In my 1st para: "and the legitimate suspicion re. Govt favours for its donors, esp. from the construction industry"

  6. For one of the few times that anglo community have one of their own at the head of Québec, they deserved better than John James Charest. If I were an Anglo-Quebecer I would be so shamefull. I'm sad for them.

    • The impurity of the bloodline of Jean Charest. He's not one of us because, good God, he had an Irish mom. Quelle tare génétique !

      • Fascinating how most commenters just don't give a rat's ass about what's actually going on. To you guys, Québec politics is identity/ethnic politics and that's all.

        A shame, really. It looks like that government is off kilter and may (*may*, we don't know yet) have thrown away some very important checks and balances to let cronyism fester. If we are to look for a successor to Charest or to the Liberals, the debate have to go on about said cheks and balances, not some ethnic cleansing hallucinations.

        Seriously guys, get a grip.

        • I agree – but let's face it. It's not difficult to fix: make it public. Get the cameras in there and let's see and hear the selection committee of politicians, members of the bar and the public debate the values of each candidate in front of the tv!

  7. I'm all in favour of getting rid of corrupt officials, but it's a shame that now the PQ looks like it might get back into power if the Liberals don't do something amazing.
    I think I like the CPC more than I like the PQ…

  8. Eugene:

    "You are smart, Olivier, judging from your comments, and you know, as I do, when someone talks about "gouvernement clandestin" in QC, people aren't thinking to themselves "Gee, I hope it's not those awful Saguenay Tremblays who are pulling all the strings". You know what is implicit in that message, and the PQ knows what it is doing, and it needs to be called on it. Has anyone else called out Michel David for that line about Charest doing what he's told by rich Jews? (a free translation, I admit, but accurate as to the holistic meaning). "

    Thanks for the compliment, but it comes with a bit of baggage, no? Saying that when alluding to a clandestine government the PQ must obviously be referring to an ethnical entity is, to me, a self-fulfilling prophecy and an unverifiable fact. The PQ has alluded to nothing but bag-men, construction contractors, engineering firms and I guess childcare entrepreneurs and private medicale care clinics aren't far behind. Everything and the kitchen sink. But nothing, nothing like ethnic groups lurking in the shadows.

    Now, I may have missed something, but one paragraph from Michel David is a bit thin, no?

    I guess that, at the end of the day, where we really diverge of opinion isn't on constitutional or left-right matters, but rather that I don't believe the separatists in general or the PQ in particular to be psychologically-ill, on the verge of some form of psychosis or barely able to refrain unhealthy, socially pathological instincts.

  9. Michel David's comment over the Montreal jewish community, is nothing the general public does not already know, It pull's the strings on Quebec's puppet politicians. It did under Parizeau. It did under Bouchard. It does under Charest. That's where the money is.

  10. PQ is not THAT bad. Okay, Parizeau made his notorious comment on that fateful night of 1995. So now what, I mean, the party and one of its former leader are two separate things and there's been 4 leaders since! And they actually did good things while in government, they're not bad just because they're "separatist blue". If you take into account the fact that the holding of an an eventual referendum has recently been put on the back burner, I mean, what should federalists be afraid of? Of course, Marois will probably seek confrontation with Ottawa over whatever issue, but frankly, isn't what we've seen of Premier Charest lately? Would it really make a big difference?

    I understand PQ is not federalists' (and anglos') first choice but there's no need to be afraid of a PQ government, especially now that the referendum has been "forgotten"

  11. Dear DMA,
    Your comment concerning a sickly 79 yr old souverainist were uncalled for! Live according to your own rules (as per below): Les Deux Maudits Anglais should go to plan B: Calm down (without the please) and cut yourselves off!
    By Philippe Gohier – Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 12:31 PM – 266 Comments First off, calm down. Don't read that as “please calm down”—we're not asking anymore.
    … things have gotten way too heated and way too personal on the comment boards. It has to stop. You're driving us nuts.
    I understand us web editors may be partly to blame for the confusion over what's allowed and what isn't… Sure, we expect civility and good humour and a modicum of intelligence from all of you…

    What it comes down to is this: if we think a comment is having a destructive influence on a discussion, we'll delete it. That's it, that's all…we're hoping this gentle kick in the behind will set everything straight again. (But don't kid yourselves: there's a Plan B if it doesn't.)

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