Richard Cleroux forecasts Charest's return to Ottawa
In an op/ed column appearing in the Orleans Star, Richard Cleroux makes a bold prediction:
Jean Charest will not only return to Ottawa, but win the office of Prime Minister within the next five years.
It's a bold prediction for a number of reasons.
First off, despite a recent minority government setback (which was avenged with a majority government victory less than a year later) Jean Charest is firmly ensconsed in the office of Premier of Quebec, and the prospects of the Parti Quebecois or Action Democratique du Quebec of unseating him any time soon are rather slim.
Secondly, if Charest accomplished the feat he would be the first former Premier to win the office of Prime Minister in Canadian history -- Robert Stanfield, Tommy Douglas and John Bracken all tried and failed to accomplish this goal.
Thirdly, despite rumblings of a fall election, Charest would have to wait for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to (one way or another) vacate the Prime Minister's office before becoming Prime Minister himself.
While the third point naturally seems extremely obvious, there are actually numerous factors in play.
For one thing, there are certainly big questions regarding which party Charest would seek to lead upon returning to Ottawa. Charest led the Progressive Conservative party (now the Conservative party of Canada) out of the irrelevance of its post-Kim Campbell nadir before leaving the party to lead the Quebec Liberal party to victory over the Parti Quebecois.
Yet, as Cleroux notes, Charest was recently made the Chariman of the committee to plan the fesivities celebrating the 25th anniversary of Brian Mulroney's 1984 majority government.
Although Mulroney was instrumental in many of Charest's political successes -- even twice appointing him as a Cabinet Minister in his own government -- the optics of a Liberal Premier planning the celebration of a former Conservative Prime Minister, especially one who continues to dwell along the margins of Canada's political life, are very telling.
Few Liberals would dare unless they were deliberately leaving a door open to join the Conservative party.
This act even shows that Charest is above the internal frays currently troubling the Conservative party.
"Charest is different," Cleroux writes. "No internecine battles for him. He’s an old-time federal Conservative who became a provincial Quebec Liberal only because the boys in Ottawa wanted somebody who could stand up to the separatists in Quebec and save Canada for them – which he did."
In Jean Charest, Conservatives would be getting half of the Stephane Dion package that failed to materialize for the Liberal party.
Charest is a committed separatist fighter, who put his country ahead of his personal politics, and stuck to his guns. By contrast, Dion is a formerly-well-regarded separatist fighter who did a deal with the Bloc Quebecois in an attempt to become Prime Minister.
Electing Charest as leader of the Conservative party -- whether Stephen Harper decides to retire the leadership as Prime Minister or surrenders his leadership after an election defeat -- would instantly reenergize the party in Quebec.
As anyone who follows Canadian politics knows, a strong showing in Quebec is virtually a prerequisite for a majority government.
Charest could even be instrumental in reuniting the Conservative party with the people who helped it win its last majority government.
"Choosing to head the celebrations is smart," Cleroux muses. "It brings him back to the old Mulroney loyalists. They still count for lots in Quebec, and it doesn’t alienate his Liberal followers, who can be brought into his team later on."
While this all remains a bold prediction so long as Charest remains Premier of Quebec, the prospect of a Jean Charest return to the federal Conservative party should be an exciting prospect for many Canadian conservatives.
Other bloggers writing about this topic:
Roy Eappen - "Charest is Not a Lucid"