Saturday, March 24, 2007

Jean Charest Tries to Look Good!

Jean Charest, the leader of the Liberal Party of Quebec (LPQ), calls himself as the new Canadian federalism’s builder. If it weren’t for his efforts, Quebec would apparently not receive the money from the equalization formula, according to him. Needless to say that he tries to write History just to look good during this exciting election campaign that is taking place in la Belle Province.

Now, take this for an axiom: back in 2004, thanks to Jean Charest, Quebec wasn’t subjugated to the federal spending power after receiving transfer payments from Ottawa for the management of the provincial health-care system. Unlike the other nine provinces, Quebec could handle that money on its own without being told by the federal government how to spill and waste it.

Obviously, the role of the LPQ’s leader must be replaced in its context. When former journalist Christine St-Pierre officially announced her involvement in the LPQ, she expressed her positive sentiments about the current application of Canadian federalism. By talking about the new flexible federalism, St-Pierre wasn’t singing an eulogy to Jean Charest. She was hopefully not listening to André Pratte’s inexact drumbeat.

After the election of Conservative leader Stephen Harper in 2006, Charest was definitely looking as interesting as the poker cards in Casino Royale. Therefore, if we modify a Roman proverb, render unto Stephen Harper the things which are Stephen Harper’s. Now that you understood my point of view, let’s rewind the tape, dear folks.

Back in the days when Paul Martin was supposedly trying to build a “country where the streets are ruled by guns, gangs and drugs” (Stephen Harper), the relation between Ottawa and Quebec was extremely cold. Environment minister Stéphane Dion didn’t want to grant to Quebec its environmental budget that was at least $300 million. All in all, most Quebeckers weren’t satisfied about the merchandise delivered by Martin.

During the 2006 federal election, Stephen Harper was the only candidate who proposed to practice a flexible federalism as opposed to the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC). Anyone who followed this federal election closely knows that Jean Charest and Mario Dumont went on to publicly give their "personal" support the the Conservative Party of Canada. Furthermore, Quebec's Intergovernmental Affairs minister Benoît Pelletier clearly said that the recognition of the fiscal imbalance was an idea from Rona Ambrose.

Once elected, Stephen Harper will show a lot of open-mindedness towards Quebec. For instance, when the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer was created with a federal investment of $260 million, its goal was to provide Canada with a new federal cancer strategy to save 423,000 people. However, at the demand of Quebec's Health minister Philippe Couillard, Harper hopefully didn't include Quebec in that plan, because Quebec already had a cancer strategy of its own since 2003.

Another example of Stephen Harper's creativity (not Jean Charest's!) lies in the announcement made in February on environmental issues. This plan accompanied by the creation worth $1.5 billion of EcoTrust Canada consisted into "provid[ing] money to [...] provinces and territories [in order] to reduce greenhouse gases and pollution." Even though the Tories don't believe in the Kyoto Protocol, they still decided to transfer $350 million to Quebec.

With that money, Quebec (just like the other provinces and territories) could apply its own environmental plan without being told by the federal government what to do with that money. Needless to say that the environmental request from Quebec previously described "had been rebuffed by Paul Martin's former Liberal government."

If we consider Stephen Harper's willingness to redefine the federal spending power only if a federalist party is elected in Quebec on the 26th of March, we can say that Jean Charest performs in this political play with his indolence and his presence on Quebec's highest seat.

After all, if the PQ was elected (which is impossible), would Harper negociate with Quebec to redefine the federal spending power? If he does, Canada's Prime Minister should know that even though he shows a lot of open-mindedness towards Quebec, most separatists will uphold that nothing is enough for the Quebec that they envision.

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