Why on earth would Jean Charest bring up the subject of partition? Charest was leading in the polls when he decided to inject a note of reality into the election campaign.
Obviously, territorial borders would be up for discussion in the event that Quebec were to declare independence with close to half of its own population dead set against the idea.
The Supreme Court suggested that one would have to be naïve to think that territory would not be up for discussion.
In the immediate aftermath of a Yes vote, there would be massive economic uncertainty. There would also be one crucial political question: Would a separatist government of Quebec be willing to exert control over its territory by using force against partitionist movements among native peoples, minorities or massively federalist regions that opted to stay in Canada?
Charest was right on the money, but he obviously did not realize that it is always a mistake to tell Quebeckers the truth on any serious matter. Especially during an election campaign.
The leaders of the PQ and ADQ smell blood and they are not going to let go despite Charest’s quick flip-flop on the subject.
Watch for André Boisclair and Mario Dumont trying to outdo one another as they spend the rest of the campaign depicting Charest as a federalist stooge who is eager to carve up Quebec.
Carving up Canada? That’s wonderful and progressive.
Carving up Quebec — that’s dreadful and reactionary. Among Quebec nationalists, being a partitionist is worse than being a Republican. It’s worse than voting for George Bush. It’s worse than being George Bush.
Didn’t Charest know that? If he didn’t, his advisers should have told him.
With less than two weeks remaining in the election campaign, Charest may have succeeded in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
And it was all looking so good at the start of the campaign.
He was facing a pathetic and divided opposition. The PQ represented an outmoded option that was promising voters one divisive referendum after another.
The ADQ, basically a one-man band, is promising everything to everyone without regard to rhyme, reason or cost.
Given the Quebec population’s well-known propensity for living in a fantasy world, Dumont may have been on to something.
Don’t forget that a majority of Quebeckers have no problem in believing that Quebec will still be part of Canada even after Quebec separates. They believe that Ottawa will still be sending the equalization payments.
When quizzed in polls, most Quebeckers say they fully support freedom of choice in education and they also fully support Bill 101 which restricts that very freedom of choice.
Charest merely indicated that the partition debate would rise to the surface if the PQ were elected. Of course it would, but that’s not the point.
Whoever wants to win the hearts and minds of the Quebec voter must studiously avoid reality and learn how to peddle illusion.
The very discussion of partition increases support for the PQ.
Perhaps Charest was trying to boost PQ support a bit because he was worried about surging numbers for the ADQ. Perhaps that was the method to his madness. He may very well have done it on purpose.
Then again maybe he just didn’t know what he was doing.
His gaffe will eventually be forgotten. Let’s hope it’s forgotten before March 26.
The Tommy Schnurmacher Show is heard weekdays nine a.m. to noon on CJAD 800 Radio. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.