By Dino Sossi
“If there’s one commitment I’ve made to my children, it’s that I’m going to pass on to them the country I received from my parents.” – Jean Charest
It’s interesting that less than a year after Charest said this in an election battle he could never win, it may cost him the war to become Prime Minister. After Daniel Johnson’s resignation as Quebec Liberal Party leader, Charest faces a difficult choice. Remain federal Tory leader or run as Johnson’s successor. To keep his commitment to his children and increase Canada’s chances of remaining whole, Charest has only one option. Run to become Liberal leader. Here’s why.
Canada is ripe for Quebec separation, maybe even more so than in 1995. Given Johnson’s resignation and his anointment of Charest as heir, if Charest renounces the position we are left in a precarious situation. Savvy Lucien Bouchard would lead the separatist Parti Quebecois against a Liberal Party with, at best, a second choice leader at the helm. In this scenario, a PQ election win and a separation referendum would be foregone conclusions.
With the charismatic Charest as leader, the Liberals would be in a good position to challenge in the next election and postpone a referendum. As federal leaders of a party without status, Charest has little credibility as a spokesperson for Canada. As a provincial leader, however, he would have a legitimate constituency to speak for in Canada’s most crucial forum on separation.
Sure he’s a true-blue conservative. Sure no provincial politician has made a successful jump to Prime Minister. Sure Charest can’t guarantee a Liberal Party win in the next election or referendum. But as a public servant committed to national welfare and federalism’s most articulate advocate, this is Charest’s only option and Canada’s best hope.