Press-Republican

Columns

June 1, 2012

The difficult job of leading Quebec

Being the premier of Quebec is not for the faint of heart.

In the past 50 years, three premiers — Maurice Duplessis, Paul Sauve and Daniel Johnson Sr. — have died in office, the latter two in their early 50s. Two died in their early 60s about two years after they left office: Rene Levesque and Robert Bourassa. You might say it’s a killer job.

Those who didn’t die of being premier were push or purged by their own parties: Daniel Johnson Jr., Jacques Parizeau, Lucien Bouchard and Bernard Landry. Some who were exiled by their own parties hung around as what they call belles-meres (mothers-in-law) to provide generally unappreciated public advice to their successors as leader or premier.

Jean Charest, the current premier of Quebec, was relatively young when he won the job in April 2003. He was about to turn 44 at the time. Ten years earlier, he came 188 votes short of becoming prime minister of Canada.

In 1984, running as a Progressive Conservative in his hometown Sherbrooke riding, he rode Brian Mulroney’s wave to power and two years later, when he was 28, was named the youngest cabinet minister in Canadian history. His first portfolio was for Youth, which seemed fitting since he was young, only three years out of law school when he ran for Parliament.

In 1998, after Charest led the decimated Progressive Conservative Party back from a two-seat oblivion, the Quebec Liberal Party came courting. The Liberals were seeking a credible leader to wage battle against the mercurial Lucien Bouchard, Charest’s former Mulroney cabinet colleague, who, as the new leader of the separatist Parti Quebecois and soon-to-be premier of Quebec, brought Quebec to within a few thousand votes of independence.

Charest finds himself in surely one of the most difficult moments of his 28 years in politics. What started off as a long-anticipated plan to raise Quebec university fees to what would still be the cheapest in Canada, has morphed into a pot-clanging, window-smashing, police-clashing, months-long movement that some foreign media have taken to calling the Maple Spring, which translates much better as the printemps d’erable (pronounced to sound like “arab”).

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
  • Terry_Mattingly.jpg Easter with doubters and the 'nones'

    Should more pastors ask this blunt question: "Do you really believe Jesus was raised from the dead?" wonders religion columnist Terry Mattingly.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Canadiens are Canada's team

    The National Hockey League playoffs are underway, and for Canadiens fans, many of whom likely reside in the Montreal "suburb" of Plattsburgh, it is a time of hope and joy.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • little_mug.jpg There's no saw like an old saw Kaye and I laughed ourselves silly the other day as we tried to top each other with our own sayings from childhood, columnist Gordie Little writes.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Denenberg_Stu1.jpg Privacy concerns make a comeback

    There's a growing concern amongst the millennials, columnist Stu Denenberg writes.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • paul_grasso.jpg Several options exist for downtown

    Pedestrian mall just one idea that could be good for city's economic future, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Government can't create success on its own

    It takes a grass-roots community effort of people working together to assure future accomplishment, according to columnist Colin Read.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hagar_mug1.jpg Farmers strive for sustainability

    Conserving the land and assuring long-term profitability are two of the key goals for farmers these days, according to columnist Peter Hagar.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Big shift in Quebec vote

    Being a man of science, Philippe Couillard, premier-designate of Quebec, chose to use a geological term (though his field is actually medicine) to describe what happened in Monday's election, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Terry_Mattingly.jpg A monastery in the Hebrides, after 1,000 years

    Before Father Seraphim Aldea can build a monastery on Scotland's Mull Island, he needs to have a working septic system, writes religion columnist Terry Mattingly.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tobias_Sue_012914.jpg Old movies offer more than entertaining TV

    Columnist Susan Tobias and her husband, Toby, are reminded of simple childhood memories while watching an old black-and-white movie.

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

Peter Black: Canadian Dispatch

Lois Clermont, Editor

Cornell Cooperative Extension
Richard Gast: Cornell Ag Extension

Bob Grady

Guest Columns
Peter Hagar: Cornell Ag Connection

Health Advice

Ray Johnson: Climate Science
Gordie Little: Small Talk

Terry Mattingly: On Religion

Steve Ouellette: You Had To Ask

Colin Read: Everybody's Business

Pinch of Time