By Martin Patriquin - Tuesday, April 9, 2013 - 0 Comments
Martin Patriquin on a political pas de deux
On one side we have federalists, whose perpetual goal of “saving the country” has brought an equally enduring sense of self-entitlement amongst many federalist politicians. On the other the sovereignists, who purposefully stymie Canada’s political machinery if only to show to what extent the whole mess doesn’t work.
Back then, of course, we were in the former bit of the equation—which saw, among other things, the indictment of a sitting cabinet minister; a deputy premier (and municipal affairs minister) who received money, Céline Dion tickets and roses from a construction company owner; another cabinet minister who met at a swishy club with Frank Zampino, Paolo Catania, Bernard “Mr. Three Per Cent” Trepanier just prior to a notorious Montreal land sale that may well land Zampino and Catania in jail on corruption charges; the harvesting of millions of dollars in illegal campaign donations from a variety of engineering firms; and so on.
By Martin Patriquin - Monday, March 18, 2013 at 4:47 PM - 0 Comments
Hint: it has nothing to do with Arthur Porter
We’ve heard the dirt on newly-minted Quebec Liberal Party leader many, many times in the past few months. We heard of his ties to disgraced health administration wunderkind Arthur Porter, having gone so far as to register a business with the man now facing a variety of fraud-related charges in relation to the construction of Montreal’s McGill University Health Centre. We heard how he dissolved said business on the same day he announced his candidacy for leader. We heard how he and Porter served on the board of the Security Intelligence Review Committee at roughly the same time. We heard how the pair went fishing together in New Brunswick.
It’s certainly worth questioning Couillard’s judgement on the Porter file—but then, you’d have to question the judgement of the province’s political and healthcare establishment, much of which was peachy-keen on Porter when he landed at McGill in 2004. You’d also have to question why the Conservative government would ever appoint such an apparently shady character to the chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the overseeing body of Canada’s national intelligence service. All anyone, from Couillard to Harper to the MUHC folks, had to do was read clippings from the Detroit Free Press’s Kim Norris to realize how Porter left that tragic city’s health system in 2003 under cloud of blown budgets, cost overruns and questionable decisions.
None of this stuff has stuck to Couillard—at least, not enough for it to prevent him from becoming Liberal leader. He managed to convince just enough people (and the voting public, if polls are to be believed) that Porter duped him as Porter did many other rich and powerful types in Quebec. It remains awfully strange that Couillard and Porter served on the SIRC board together, but barring further evidence of fire that story will remain smoke, to be blown away by whatever other scandal crops up.
Bully for Couillard, then. I too would be smiling if I managed to become the leader of the province’s most successful political party mere months after dissolving my relationship with one of its alleged biggest fraudsters. But while his Porter pas de deux remains troubling, if not altogether politically fraught, I’m more worried about another of Couillard’s skeletons, one that is somewhat more enduring than an aborted business venture with an alleged scam artist.
It’s this: Philippe Couillard is a federalist. Like, a huge federalist. As in, I-want-to-open-new-Constitution-talks federalist. On constitutional matters, he is an acolyte of Benoit Pelletier, Charest’s former intergovernmental affairs minister, who has pushed (or nudged, anyway) for new constitutional talks since leaving office in 2008. Couillard is even more constitutionally rabid than Pelletier. He said he wants Quebec to be a signatory of the Constitution by 2017. The fruit isn’t only ripe, in other words. It’s practically falling off the vine.
Which is all fine and good, except for this: should Couillard pursue this line of thinking in office, you and me and everyone else would be in for Meech Lake part deux, and all the spleen-venting, hair-pulling, hand-wringing fun that would entail. Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have succeeded in stumping the Parti Québécois simply by depriving the sovereignist party of any platform from which to vent its rage. Our Prime Minister knows what the vast majority of Quebecers know: the province hasn’t suffered one iota from having not signed the Constitution in 1982. Talking about it puts most Quebecers to sleep—unless you force the issue on them. Then it’s Pandora’s Box time.
Imagine Canada, 2015. Couillard is Quebec Premier raring to go on the Constitution. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, eager to right his father’s legacy, is just as eager. Together they embark on a vanity project that has little value beyond the cosmetic. The Parti Québécois gets suitably, predictably enraged. The rest of Canada does the same, when it isn’t busy yawning. Something is made of nothing and, yadda yadda yadda, Referendum.
Seems we’ve heard this record before. Why play it again?
By The Canadian Press - Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 6:06 PM - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – The new leader of the Quebec Liberals says he wants to make…
MONTREAL – The new leader of the Quebec Liberals says he wants to make strengthening the province’s place in Canada a priority for the party.
Philippe Couillard, who was elected by party delegates Sunday at a convention in Montreal, said he wants to unite Quebecers under the Liberal banner, whether they choose federalism “out of passion, or out of reason.”
“Today a race ends, but today a march begins,” he told party delegates following his victory.
“We start the renewal of our party.”
The former health minister replaces Jean Charest, who stepped down after the Liberals were defeated by the Parti Quebecois in last September’s election.
By The Canadian Press - Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 9:41 PM - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – Former Quebec premier Jean Charest took a final bow on the political…
MONTREAL – Former Quebec premier Jean Charest took a final bow on the political stage on Saturday by making a passionate plea for national unity and reminding Canadians how important the province is to Canada.
“Canada is our home, and all those who live outside of Quebec should know that Quebec is also part of their home and their heritage,” Charest told a crowd of Quebec Liberals, who paid tribute to him at a leadership convention to select his successor.
The staunch federalist also took a jab at the Parti Quebecois government, which has made preserving the French language a key issue since taking office. He said that English-speaking Quebecers deserve to be treated with respect.
“You are not strangers in this province and you are not strangers as citizens of Quebec,” he said, speaking in English during what was a mostly French address.
By macleans.ca - Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 4:06 PM - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – All three candidates vying for the Quebec Liberal leadership say they want…
MONTREAL – All three candidates vying for the Quebec Liberal leadership say they want the province to sign the Canadian Constitution, though not necessarily any time soon.
Philippe Couillard, a former health minister and the presumed front-runner, said Saturday it’s something Quebec must work toward.
“It’s not a pressing issue, but it’s something we have to work on,” Couillard said at an English-language leadership debate in Montreal.
“I want Quebec to be a signatory on the Constitution of Canada.”
Pierre Moreau and Raymond Bachand, both ex-ministers as well, also stressed it was an important issue. But Bachand said it wasn’t the time to reopen thorny constitutional talks, while Moreau said it doesn’t necessarily need to happen right away.
By Rob Silver - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 1:34 PM - 0 Comments
They’re entertaining, but not quite as wild and crazy as you remember
This weekend’s Ontario Liberal leader election and the upcoming Quebec Liberal leadership election could be the last of a dying breed—the wild, unpredictable delegated convention. Fantastic drama, questionable democracy: such conventions are crack to political junkies.
Any smart political junkie knows that delegated leadership conventions have some steadfast parameters. A former Ontario cabinet minister who is a really smart guy (really, he is) summarized them recently as follows:
In delegate-based leadership contests, frontrunners are typically doomed to lose — except where there is an heir apparent, such as Chretien succeeding Turner, or Martin succeeding Chretien (and I suppose, Ignatieff succeeding Dion). The same held true for leadership contests in the other major parties — at least until they got rid of the old-school delegate convention format and replaced it with something akin to trolling for Twitter followers.
Front runners are doomed, unless there is an heir apparent. Gotcha.
By Martin Patriquin - Monday, October 29, 2012 at 10:43 AM - 0 Comments
While the corruption scandal rages on, Liberals can’t seem to get enough of their tainted former leader
Aside from three consecutive winning campaigns, arguably the best gift that Jean Charest gave the Liberal Party of Quebec was losing his seat along with September’s election. It afforded a graceful exit, avoiding the indignity of him having to sit in Opposition after nine unbroken years of power. It has also allowed for the party’s first leadership campaign in nearly three decades—a golden opportunity, some might say, for Liberals to distance themselves from Charest’s scandal-plagued, chronically unpopular last few years in government.
Yet the exact opposite seems to be happening in the run-up to the leadership convention in four months. Neither the party nor the three declared leadership candidates who wish to lead it have attempted in any way to distance themselves from Charest. Far from it. “After having led the Liberal party for more than 14 years and the government since 2003, Jean Charest leaves an economically strong government, having fulfilled many great achievements, and a party in excellent health,” reads a dedication to Charest on the party’s website.
It may seem an odd thing for a party to be so smitten with a former leader who regularly scored near-record dissatisfaction levels throughout his last mandate. It is all the more strange considering that an inquiry into corruption in the province’s construction industry, reluctantly called by Charest himself in 2011, recently heard testimony alleging three of his former senior ministers curried the favour of (and solicited donations from) a Mobbed-up construction magnate. It has only reinforced the general view that under Charest, the Liberals were home to dodgy fundraising practices and populated by a host of less-than-savoury characters.
By Scaachi Koul - Monday, October 1, 2012 at 11:40 AM - 0 Comments
Former Transport Minister Pierre Moreau is set to announce his bid for Quebec’s Liberal…
Former Transport Minister Pierre Moreau is set to announce his bid for Quebec’s Liberal Party on Monday morning.
Last Friday, former Finance Minister Raymond Bachand was the first to make a bid to replace Jean Charest, who left the party after losing Quebec’s general election last month.
Former health minister Phillippe Couillard is expected to confirm his candidacy on Wednesday, in spite of being out of politics for the past four years.
By Martin Patriquin - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 11:55 AM - 0 Comments
Québec Solidaire and Option Nationale won an amount of votes equal to 25 per cent of the PQ vote
For the first time in nearly 14 years, the Parti Québécois will form Quebec’s next government. This in itself is incredible for the sovereignist party and its leader Pauline Marois, both of which were teetering on political oblivion barely a year ago. Just last summer, Marois faced down four deserting péquiste MNAs, an attempted putsch by backers of former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe and an electorate that was decidedly ambivalent to her charms. There’s a reason her supporters call her dame de béton—Lady Concrete.
Yet the victory of Quebec’s first female Premier is nonetheless qualified. The PQ won office with less than 32 per cent of the vote, it is the fourth-lowest showing in PQ’s 42-year electoral history. It is 3.3 percentage points lower than just four years ago, when the party became Quebec’s Official Opposition. It is why, despite the overwhelming and near-chronic unpopularity of Jean Charest’s Liberals, Lady Concrete was unable to form a majority government.
Perhaps more hurtful to péquiste sensibilities are the reasons behind the ‘loss’ of a majority government. The upstart Coalition Avenir Québec, led by former PQ cabinet minister François Legault, siphoned support from the vote-rich regions of Montreal’s exurbs and the Laurentian region north of Montreal. The CAQ also played spoiler in certain ‘getable’ ridings for the PQ, allowing the Liberals to slip up the middle.
By Martin Patriquin - Tuesday, August 7, 2012 at 10:35 AM - 0 Comments
The former Montreal police chief is basically immune to criticism — and he’s a federalist
No doubt, Jacques Duchesneau is a huge score for François Legault. In a province that loves its saviors (here, here, here and, yes, even here), the former Montreal police chief has become the face of integrity in the face of rampant corruption, political and otherwise. In doing so he’s become irreproachable and practically immune to criticism. Marois stayed practically silent on Legault’s coup, while Jean Charest made sure to praise Duchesneau even while he was accusing the ex-cop of “pure demagoguery.” For Duchesneau, it’s the stuff of political gold: Taking a shot at him is the equivalent of insulting Eliot Ness. Doing so suggests you have something to hide.
But here’s another reason why getting Duchesneau is a coup for Legault. Apart from his investigative chops and formidable reputation, he’s also federalist to the bone. It marks the first time in Coalition Avenir Québec’s short history that the party has nabbed an honest-to-goodness, high-profile Lover Of Canada™. “He’s a federalist, part of the gang,” Parti Québécois parliamentary leader Stéphane Bédard told me in June.
Before Duchesneau came along, Legault’s party was less a coalition than a refuge for disillusioned sovereignists, Legault very much included. Methinks Charest will have to retire his CAQ-as-a-crpyto-sovereignist-party talking point sometime soon.
By Jaela E. Bernstien - Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 12:15 PM - 0 Comments
Certain to play a major role in Quebec’s upcoming election, Plan Nord is already being called Jean Charest’s legacy to the province. Only twelve months into its launch, the 25-year plan promises to pump millions of dollars and thousands of jobs into the province’s economy by developing its resource-rich north. The plan also pledges to respect traditional Aboriginal ways of life and environmental sustainability in every phase of its implementation. Critics aren’t persuaded, and some even challenge the very economic viability of the project. Ultimately, voters will decide if Plan Nord is Charest’s legacy or letdown.
For now, we put together these this nifty infographic that sums up much of what you need to know about it:
By Martin Patriquin - Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 3:43 PM - 0 Comments
Jacques Duchesneau was hired to investigate corruption in the construction industry. No one liked what he found.
Montrealers can be forgiven for having been a tad restive during the sweltering first days of summer. There were the nightly student protests against Quebec Premier Jean Charest’s government and clashes with police. About a month ago, a six-metre-deep sinkhole opened up on Sherbrooke Street just hours after tens of thousands of protesters had walked past. In late June, a sewage pipe burst at rue Ste-Catherine and McGill College, revealing that one of the city’s busiest intersections was being largely held up by old tramway rails embedded in the asphalt. More sections of pipe promptly burst under Peel Street.
And then there were the perp walks by public officials. In May, Montreal’s former executive committee chairman, Frank Zampino, was hauled out of bed and arrested for his alleged part in the sale of city land to developer Frank Catania for a fraction of its value. Last week, Luigi Coretti, a close friend of former provincial Liberal cabinet minister Tony Tomassi, who himself faces fraud and breach-of-trust charges, was charged with fraud and fabricating false documents.
Protests. Crumbling infrastructure. Public officials in handcuffs. How much can one city be expected to take?
By Paul Wells - Friday, April 20, 2012 at 11:04 AM - 0 Comments
Jean Charest denied the mess all around him for years–eventually it will destroy him
So what’s the going price for Céline Dion tickets these days, anyway? Nine of them, in a luxury suite at Montreal’s Bell Centre? Figure a little over $200 each, anyway. Not less than $2,000 for the set.
If somebody gave you $2,000 worth of Céline Dion tickets, you’d probably remember who gave them to you. I know I’d never forgive anyone who gave me that much access to that much awful, awful music. But Nathalie Normandeau, who was deputy premier of Quebec until she quit politics last autumn, likes Céline Dion. She did get nine tickets to the Bell Centre suites for a 2009 Dion show. And she still couldn’t remember the name of her benefactor when the Radio-Canada investigative journalism program Enquête called her a couple of weeks ago.
It was a trick question, of course. The reporter from Enquête knew who gave Normandeau the tickets. It was Lino Zambito. The same guy who also gave her Madonna tickets.
By Martin Patriquin - Monday, October 17, 2011 at 8:20 AM - 0 Comments
The Quebec premier tends to reverse himself only after incurring maximum political damage
Jean Charest stays in power because of his political smarts, his eye for the jugular and his ability to, time and again, defy expectations. At least, this is the accepted wisdom when describing how Charest, who has never exactly warmed Quebec’s collective heart, has managed to become one of the country’s longest-serving premiers. He is a constant in a fractured political landscape: the 53-year-old has faced no less than five Parti Québécois leaders over three elections. And he has strongly hinted he’s hungry for more.
Yet if Charest has a weakness, it’s his own tendency to make and hold to highly contentious decisions, only to reverse himself once the decision has incurred the maximum political damage on his own government. Exhibit A: the premier recently said he’d be open to holding some form of public inquiry into the province’s demonstrably corrupt construction industry—something the opposition, the voting public and several municipal officials have pleaded for throughout the last two years. And as lukewarm as Charest’s endorsement may sound, it constitutes nothing short of a huge climbdown for the premier, who has spent much of this time refusing to even consider the possibility.
There are many such grand reversals throughout Charest’s eight years in office. The building of the CHUM, Montreal’s French superhospital, was delayed by Charest’s insistence that it be located in the municipality of Outremont, even though the public overwhelmingly favoured a downtown site. Only after the ensuing squabble—which delayed the project by upwards of four years, according to former Université de Montréal rector Robert Lacroix—did the premier reverse himself.
By Martin Patriquin - Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 9:20 AM - 4 Comments
A radical, unpopular plan for Quebec, now a corruption scandal: can he survive?
If by some chance you arrived at the Quebec Liberal party convention last weekend after having lived under a rock for several weeks, you’d be forgiven for thinking things were peachy for the provincial party. The mere mention of Premier Jean Charest’s name evoked whistles and cheers from the 600 or so partisans. Wearing a perpetual half-smirk, Charest studded both of his boisterous, campaign-style speeches with cheery statistics: roads built, jobs created, money saved, dollars spent. For one weekend, at least, the Hôtel des Seigneurs in St. Hyacinthe, a town better known for the quality of its chocolate than its support of anything remotely federalist, gleamed Quebec Liberal red-and-blue.
Yet it is quite a different story beyond the partisan fold. Less than 18 months after securing a third term, Charest and the Liberals are more unpopular than they’ve ever been. A recent poll suggested 77 per cent of Quebecers are unsatisfied with the government, while a mere 17 per cent believe Charest is fit to lead the province. The poll, which came out shortly after a budget replete with tax, tuition and electricity rate hikes, not to mention the introduction of user fees for health care, represents a dubious honour for Charest: he is even less popular now than he was in 2004, the previous benchmark for unpopularity in modern Quebec politics—and, not coincidentally, the last time Charest attempted major changes to Quebec’s traditional social democratic model. In response to the more recent changes, some 50,000 Quebecers took to the streets (on a Sunday, no less) to protest the tax hikes, christening Quebec’s own version of the Tea Party movement. “It’s unprecedented,” pollster Christian Bourque told Le Devoir recently.
By Philippe Gohier - Thursday, December 11, 2008 at 6:49 PM - 17 Comments
A few (more) final thoughts on the election:
1) I have a nagging feeling…
1) I have a nagging feeling Charest’s inability to convert his huge lead in the polls into a huge majority is being vastly overstated. A majority is a majority is a majority, no? He’ll have to rule over his caucus with an iron fist to prevent internal dissent from undermining that slim majority. But that’s still not as bad as having to deal with an unruly opposition that goes behind your back and elects a Speaker from its own ranks. That said, a minority government would have been devastating to the Liberals, especially considering they would have found themselves squaring off against a rejuvenated PQ rather than an incompetent and ineffective ADQ.
2) I’m having a hard time reconciling the notion Stephen Harper’s low-rent separatist-baiting was responsible for the PQ doing better than expected with the fact voter turnout was an abysmal 57 per cent, “the lowest election turnout since 1927.” Turnout was actually much worse than that oft-repeated nugget implies. In 1927, and for every election before that, turnout was calculated based on eligible voters in all ridings, even those in which a seat went uncontested. Voter turnout jumped by more than 20 points when the acounting method was changed in 1931, meaning participation in this past election may in fact have been at its lowest point in Quebec history. It’s hard to imagine that all the nonsense in Ottawa wouldn’t have an impact. But if it did, why did so many people stay home? Furthermore, how low would turnout have been had Harper not gone off the rails? The simplest explanation is that the pollsters just got it wrong. Continue…
By Philippe Gohier - Tuesday, November 25, 2008 at 1:13 PM - 1 Comment
The latest La Presse-CROP poll shows the Liberals widening the chasm between them and…
The latest La Presse-CROP poll shows the Liberals widening the chasm between them and the other parties:
Liberals: 45% (+3)
Parti Québécois: 32% (+1)
Action démocratique du Québec: 12% (-3)
It’s probably unfair to dwell on Mario Dumont’s ability to stink up the joint, but the last time the ADQ scored this poorly was in 1998, when it won just a single seat—Dumont’s in Rivière-du-Loup. Continue…
By Philippe Gohier - Monday, November 24, 2008 at 4:34 PM - 0 Comments
André Pratte hits the nail on the head in today’s La Presse:
André Pratte hits the nail on the head in today’s La Presse:
Despite being launched under the pretext of an economic crisis, the electoral campaign in Quebec is taking place as if Quebec was going to be the only corner of the planet spared the turbulence that’s wreaking havoc worldwide.
Jean Charest couldn’t stand the thought of having “three pairs of hands on the steering wheel” in the midst of a recession, so he launches an election to let voters decide who’d do the best job. Fair enough. But then, how come nobody’s talking about the economy? And would it be too much to ask that the parties use real numbers when they do? Continue…
By Martin Patriquin and Philippe Gohier - Friday, November 21, 2008 at 3:31 PM - 0 Comments
Why Charest is better off with a low turnout at the polls
Jean Charest is a popular man in Quebec these days. With a double-digit lead in the polls, the Quebec premier is widely expected to coast to a third mandate next month. If he does, he’ll be the first to do so since Maurice Duplessis won four consecutive elections under the Union Nationale banner between 1944 and 1960. But that’s not to say the Liberal leader is enjoying a groundswell of popular support. Though Quebecers appear resigned to another Charest victory on Dec. 8, the truth is, they’d rather not vote at all.
Just prior to the start of the campaign, seven out of 10 Quebecers polled by CROP said they hoped the premier wouldn’t send them back to the voting booth a mere 20 months after his government was reduced to a minority. But even frustration over an early call isn’t enough to get voters fired up. In fact, according to a Léger Marketing poll this week, over half of the electorate isn’t even following the race, and 37 per cent say they feel less motivated to cast a ballot in this election than they were in the last one. Given the widespread disinterest, a repeat of the dismal turnout for the past few provincial and federal elections seems likely. And if history is any guide, Charest has little reason to want it any other way. Continue…
By Philippe Gohier - Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 8:01 PM - 0 Comments
I got a kick out of this story in today’s La Presse about how…
I got a kick out of this story in today’s La Presse about how Quebec politicians have been kickin’ back and takin’ ‘er easy for the past year:
From April 1, 2007 to March 31, 2008, the 125 parliamentarians spent 1,102 hours in the House and in parliamentary committees (254 and 848 hours, respectively). It’s a 29% decrease from the year before, when MNAs spent 1,557 hours at work (319 in the National Assembly and 1,238 in committee).
The previous year wasn’t exceptional. The National Assembly and parliamentary committees have often worked 1,550, even 1,800 hours a year over the last decade. For committees alone, the average over the past 25 years has been 1,200 hours.
By selley - Thursday, May 29, 2008 at 2:13 PM - 0 Comments
Must-reads: …Christie Blatchford on the National Day of Action; Lawrence Martin on Maxime Bernier;
Maxime Bernier, Julie Couillard and Stephen Harper sift through the post-apocalyptic rubble.
The National Post‘s Terence Corcoran doesn’t think much of Julie Couillard, her “glamour-puss makeup,” her TVA interview with its “preposterous dialogue only a soap opera writer could create,” and her insistence that she’s not a security threat despite calling her lawyer, and then the media, instead of Bernier himself when she discovered the documents. He also doesn’t think much of Bernier’s taste in women. And he doesn’t think hardly anything of Stephen Harper’s decision to pull Bernier out of Industry, where he was “continuing a telecom revolution,” and ship him “to outer Afghanistan, a country he possibly couldn’t locate on a map prior to running for office,” and where he had no independence to put his considerable talents to good use.
Indeed, The Globe and Mail‘s Lawrence Martin notes, the leave-behind affair exposes a paradoxical and crippling weakness in Harper’s management style: he won’t suffer insubordination, but he’s quite “prepared to suffer fools.” This problem goes back to the Reform days, Martin notes, as chronicled by Preston Manning in his book. (We can’t recommend poking around Manning’s website highly enough, incidentally, starting with this.) If anything’s going to convince the Prime Minister to dial back the self-defeating micromanagement, Martin says the Bernier fiasco might be it. Making it happen will be Guy Giorno’s job one.