It's not that Jean Charest doesn't like anglophones. Hell, he loves us.
So much so that he's even chosen to live in Westmount, whose more affluent residents might be the only people left in Quebec among whom he feels comfortable. In the National Assembly he's the member for Sherbrooke, but he's really the member from Above Sherbrooke.
And he's the very opposite of Jacques Parizeau; he loves our money and our votes - especially our money and our votes.
He's never had the Quebec Liberal Party turn down a contribution because the cheque was written in English. Our electoral ridings are safe places for him to run "star" candidates who couldn't get elected among their fellow francophones.
And the only reason he still has a political career is that enough anglophones voted for him on March 26.
So it's not that he doesn't like us. It's just that Charest, whose mother is an anglophone of Irish descent and who was baptized John James, though he now passes as a real Quebecer, doesn't want to be seen in public with us. We're like his mistress, a relationship he'd like to keep on the down-low.
In private, he'll give us the occasional gift, provided he thinks nobody else will find out about it. A few years ago, he got caught trying to slip full public funding for Jewish private schools past his own cabinet, and had to take it back.
But in public, no Liberal premier has ever treated us with such consistent, naked contempt as Charest. Robert Bourassa passed anti-English legislation, but at least acted as though he regretted hurting our feelings, and made clumsy efforts to make it up to us.
Charest? As of yesterday, two days after he announced his new cabinet, he hadn't uttered a word of regret about dropping Geoffrey Kelley and Lawrence Bergman and replacing them with a young anglophone with less than three years of experience in elected politics. It's the weakest anglophone representation in a Liberal cabinet since at least 1994.
In fact, Immigration Minister Yolande James apparently doesn't even consider herself an anglophone representative. According to the official Assembly transcript, when she was asked in English after her swearing in how she would represent the anglophone community, she stammered:
"We are a team and we'll always be a team, and in full ... diversity, whether it be culturally, with the three ... language, and all 48 members of the caucus will be working strongly together on all issues including those touching the anglophone community. Thank you very much."
It might be too much to expect James not to defer to her older, more experienced colleagues in the cabinet instead of pressing them hard on such issues as the under-representation of minorities in the government.
But anglophones should not be too hard on her. Charest has demeaned her by speaking of her only as the first minister ever from a visible minority, as though that's her only qualification. She's too bright to be a mere token. And she's not to blame for dropping Kelley and Bergman from the cabinet.
It's just that Charest wanted a small cabinet so there could be as many ministers from the regions as from the Montreal area and as many women as men. As representatives of a slavishly captive electorate, Kelley and Bergman were expendable.
The mayor of Westmount has reacted by saying anglophones, tired of being taken granted by the Liberals, might switch their votes to Mario Dumont's Action democratique. But Karin Marks told me yesterday she herself does not intend to resign as vice-president of the Liberal association in Westmount-Saint-Louis "for the moment."
Charest knows she's bluffing. In fact, she might be doing him a favour, because the louder anglophones complain about his treatment of them, the more nationalist street cred it might give him among the francophones he needs to win back.
Anyway, he knows that as long as there's a chance of the Parti Quebecois returning to power, we'll stick with him, as battered mistresses often do.
Sure, he slaps us around from time to time, but only because we asked for it. He really does love us. He just can't show it.
It's the love that dare not speak its name