Charest: Back on top, and rubbing it in

The Quebec Premier is apparently eager to quibble publicly over a change to the equalization formula


As Stephen Harper exited the press room at the end of last week’s First Ministers meeting, he passed close to Quebec Premier Jean Charest. Neither acknowledged the other, and a moment later Charest was at the podium, bluntly conveying his displeasure with the prime minister. “Quebec is profoundly disappointed,” he said.

Two years ago, delivering the federal budget for 2007, Jim Flaherty declared that “the long, tiring, unproductive era of bickering between the provincial and federal governments” was over. But now, amid financial chaos, there is a new disagreement over equalization, and it adds a prominent name to the prime minister’s list of hectoring opponents.

They were once thought to be allies, but the relationship between Harper and Charest has gone wobbly. During the federal election, Charest openly criticized Harper’s cuts to arts funding. Harper’s Conservatives subsequently failed to make gains in Quebec and two months later, Charest managed to pull off something that has long eluded the prime minister: a majority government. Charest is now apparently eager to quibble publicly over a federal change to the equalization formula. The Conservatives say Charest’s government has flip-flopped, and used to support the new formula. Charest accuses the Conservatives of “misrepresenting the facts.”

With the poor election showing of the ADQ (the Quebecois nationalist party with ties to Harper’s Conservatives), and pressure on Flaherty to craft a budget that satisfies all constituencies, Charest enjoys a certain advantage. But it’s one that, given the economic anxiety dominating the agenda, he must exploit carefully. “It’s going to make for a very grumpy electorate if they see Canada’s leaders playing politics,” says pollster Nik Nanos. “If he’s seen to be taking advantage of his comparative strength then that won’t even play well in the province of Quebec.”

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Charest: Back on top, and rubbing it in

  1. Good Old Greedy Quebec !!!

  2. As always, they receive the lion’s share of transfer payments, are the definition of a “have-not” Province with no ambition to change that and will complain eagerly that the rest of the country is not doing enough to support them.

    They do realize that the government of Canada, where all the money comes from, is taxpayer’s dollars right? They understand that right? And when they repeatedly vote for a party that wants to destroy this country, we understand that they are giving us the middle finger right? Canadians? Do we understand that?

    • I think that we learn very, very slowly. How long did it take for us to understand that massive deficits will eventually hobble govts. Twenty years? Maybe more. What was so hard to understand anyway?

      Same idea with Quebec. We’re coming around very, very slowly to the realization that they are giving the the finger. We do not want to accept the fact that they have no affection for us and do not want to be part of this country. I think that if Francophone Quebecers had their druthers and if there wasn’t so much risk of economic and financial fallout they would be an independent country.

  3. There’s little I find more perturbing than the recipients of handouts complaining that it is not enough.

  4. Quebec is was it is 50% of Canada …….. say what you will but no person can make it anywhere in this country without command of two languages ….. even Steve with all his cowboy backing can gain only 36% …. and Charest ex-conservative leader (PC) knows it.

  5. “The long, tiring, unproductive era of bickering between the provincial and federal governments is over?” Yeah, just like amateur hour ended when Stephane Dion ceded the federal Liberal helm.

    Wanna bet Quebec will never go for anything except marching to the beat of its own (spoiled brat) drum?

  6. In the rush to regional baiting whenever the word Equalization is mentioned, people forget that this program (a) is the only federal spending program that is required to meet a Constitutional standard and (b) has allowed the country to devolve considerably more spending to lower levels of government through time than has happenend which allows provinces to tailor programs to local tastes and to experiment in new designs.

    Having lived in the UK where Whitehall bureaucrats make these program decisions, including regional budget allocations, it is vastly preferable to hold politicians accountable for how they handle these questions – in both federal and provincial capitals.

    It would be much more helpful to the debate if you could report on and assess the nature of Mr. Charest’s concern rather than his changing level of (dis)affection for the Prime Minister.