The Gazette‘s Don Macpherson boldly predicts 2010 won’t be all wine and roses for Quebec Premier Jean Charest:
A year of recession and losses at the Caisse de dépôt ended with Charest being hounded by demands for a public inquiry into alleged corruption in the construction industry and with his government’s satisfaction rating at only 34 per cent.
And this year, things might get even worse.
The new year begins with Charest’s government facing problems in three key areas: political morality, public finances, and identity.
According to Macpherson, those problems are: persistent demands for an inquiry into dodgy dealings in the construction sector, as well as a perceived need to tighten ethics rules; a budget that will need balancing in the short term; and lingering identity and language issues that could prove to be a boon to the PQ’s fortunes. There’s nothing really, truly terrible on Macpherson’s list, but I can see why Charest and the gang might want to start burnishing the government’s image as soon as possible to prevent any of those issues from snowballing into something like, say, the Bouchard-Taylor Comission.
All of which has to be the explanation for this. Because there can be no other.
For those who didn’t catch it, this past weekend, Charest stopped in for an interview on TVA’s breezy morning show, Salut Bonjour. Even if you’ve got a stomach for the relentlessly upbeat fare that’s usually on these types of shows, Charest’s bit could charitably be described as cringe-inducing.
When Charest wasn’t wishing Quebeckers could simply “keep being a remarkable people,” he was being serenaded by members of his cabinet as a man of immense courage, vision, and determination. To her credit, host Pénélope McQuade took a few potshots at the preem. However Charest was in no mood to be anything but fabulous, brushing off questions about health care spending, taxes, and the size of government. As if it weren’t syrupy enough already, the interview segment was bookended by Immigration Minister Yolande James describing how Charest is the James Bond (?!) of Quebec politics.
I really don’t know what to add. Just watch the video. While you’re doing so, remember that Charest was similarly feted by his party last May as one of the “Great Builders” of Quebec and elevated to some imaginary pantheon where he ranks among the great political figures of the modern era, like Jean Lesage and Robert Bourassa.
I know relentless self-promotion and shaking hands and kissing babies is a big part of what Charest does for a living. But for God’s sake—so is having a grasp on reality.