Mario Dumont's bad weekend in Paris

Charest and a PQ stalwart had to help him get a meeting with French premier

France-Québec - Mario Dumont à Paris

Mario Dumont must have been happy to wake up on Monday morning. That's how bad his weekend was.
Perception is reality in politics, and the actions of other politicians on the weekend reinforced the impression that Dumont leads an amateurish party that's on the way down.
First word leaked out that Prime Minister Stephen Harper had apparently dumped Dumont after only a couple of months together as the hot new couple of right-of-centre politics in Quebec, to go back to Premier Jean Charest.

Then it was reported that Dumont's adversaries had to intervene at the last minute so it wouldn't look as though the Quebec opposition leader - and by extension Quebec - had been snubbed by French politicians during a poorly prepared official trip to Europe.
Yesterday, Le Devoir reported that just as Dumont was about to slink out of Paris, Charest and Louise Beaudoin, a former Parti Québécois minister well connected in France, intervened separately to get him a meeting with French premier François Fillon.
Le Devoir had made a diplomatic incident out of the "unprecedented" lack of a meeting between a Quebec opposition leader on an official visit and the French head of government. And it had suggested the French have lost interest in their "favoured" relationship with Quebec.
It was to avoid this perception, not to help Dumont save face, that Charest and Beaudoin intervened and the French agreed to their request to let the ADQ leader meet Fillon.
But the impression was left that Dumont's Action démocratique du Québec lacked either the experience or the contacts to ensure that its leader was seen to receive as much attention from the French as previous Quebec opposition leaders.
The apparent indifference of the French toward Dumont might not have been influenced by his and his party's respective declines in the Quebec polls since last spring.
But Harper is facing the possibility of an imminent election, and his Conservative Party has enough problems in Quebec without also being linked to a provincial ally that's losing popularity.
So barely two months after Harper and Dumont had got together for a highly symbolic photo-op on the ADQ leader's home turf in Rivière du Loup, word was leaked of a secret get-together in Quebec City last Friday evening between the fickle Harper and Charest.
The two heads of government had been on the outs since the last week of the provincial election campaign last March, when Charest used a new transfer of $700 million from Harper to promise a new cut in personal income tax.
This embarrassed Harper, since it looked as though he was collecting taxes from other Canadians so that Charest could cut those of Quebecers while continuing to provide them with services the other provinces can't afford.
Also, in the ensuing election, Charest's Liberals lost ground to the ADQ in French Quebec, where the Conservatives also need to make gains.
So Harper began to show signs of distancing himself from Charest and moving closer to Dumont.
Relations between his government and Charest's deteriorated.
And Charest and his ministers spoke of Harper's government in increasingly harsh terms, especially after Harper's rendezvous in Rivière du Loup with Dumont.
But timing is everything in politics, and Harper's was off. By the time of his grip-and-grin with Dumont, the latter was already slipping in the polls, while Charest was climbing.
This apparently made Charest more attractive to Harper than Dumont, and in Quebec City on Friday evening, Valentine's Day arrived six days early.

This time, however, the only photo-op Harper got was the next day with Bonhomme Carnaval, the snowman mascot of the annual Quebec City winter carnival.
As flattering as Harper's renewed ardour might be to Charest, the latter has no interest in appearing overly friendly to a leader whose party is even less popular among Charest's constituents than his own.
And unlike Dumont, Charest is already premier, so he doesn't need to be taken more seriously.
- source

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