To me, the very greatest politicians speak from the heart. They are unscripted and sincere, popularity polls be damned. They want to lead more than anything else and the burning desire is bigger than them. They are unafraid to lose power and are far more afraid of failing to have constituents share in their ultimate vision, whether that goal is a united Canada, or a separate Quebec. The great Pierre Trudeau and Rene Levesque were such leaders. They said what they felt, made no apologies and were true to themselves, before all else.
For years, I believed Jean Charest was such a politician. However, I have the impression he has been afraid to lose power and politicians in that position are open to compromises because they don't like being unpopular. When he finally decided in March 1998 to run for the Quebec Liberal leadership, he was unshakably focussed on a unified Canada, but some of his policies since then, have clearly been designed to appeal to the separatist vote.
He decided to maintain the status quo on Bill 101. In 2003, under his leadership, the Quebec legislature unanimously proclaimed Quebec a nation. He has promised to have Quebec "specificity" enshrined in the Constitution. In January 2001, he said he was open to a referendum on "updated federalism". In 2004, he defended the separatist, Bill 99.
When he decided to enter Quebec politics, I, like thousands of others, was overcome with hope, relief and optimism. Quebec had finally found someone who could lead this province to its rightful place in Canada. Not only would Jean Charest make certain Quebec remained within this magnificent country, he would make sure Quebec laid claim to all that Canada has to offer. Since arriving on the provincial scene, he has floundered. There's no detectable passion for his province, nor his people.
A poll in today's paper suggests only 31 per cent of Quebecers would vote Liberal if an election were held today. Since December 2009, Charest's popularity has dropped to 18 per cent, from 29. A poll released in April showed only 22 per cent of Quebecers with a good opinion of Charest and yet, the same poll also showed he remains one of the most popular leaders in English Canada.
Lead, Jean. You know where you want us to go; take us there. We'll follow. Toss the poll-driven strategies and speeches aside and speak from the heart. If it's not already too late and provided you emerge from the Bastarache Bashfest unscathed, that, as far as I can see, is your only chance...not to mention, ours.