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Lisa Payette August 3, 2012
Jean Charest beamed before the Quebec international airport Wednesday afternoon, sweating in his navy blue suit under the heavy sun. He was surrounded by his ministers, come to support him to the very end, nodding at his every word and showing the same self-satisfied smiles they’ve had for the last nine years. One might have thought it was a wedding photo in front of a church. The women were well dressed and the men were red like tomatoes, or Liberals.
Again and again Charest said that this election he wants to give “the silent majority” a chance to make their voices heard regarding the choice he is giving them: either the economy and jobs, or the street and its henchmen. It looks so much like a referendum that you could mistake it for one.
Sometimes it was like he was delivering a sermon from the altar like the priests made us listen to year after year. Other times you could recognize the good old Jean Charest, the one we know well, the manipulator, the corner-cutter, the one who never gives a clear, precise answer, the one who plays with words, delivering his lines, repeating his talking points ad nauseam, tripping a bit over his last words as if they were in English. My lord.
Truly, the only thing he is really good at, and the only thing he does with a hint of style, is to lie a little, a lot. Passionate lying. I recognize that in him: it’s high art. But I thought I noticed him suffering from some kind of illness. Never mind the name: let’s call it Pinocchio sickness. When he lies, if you watch him carefully, you can see his nose get longer, very slowly. At the rate he is spinning tales, his nose could someday be a bridge for his Plan Nord, which would save us money when building roads to nowhere.
When I think of all the costly promises that he has made over the last few weeks — with the obvious goal of buying votes like Maurice Duplessis did in his day — I fear for the bill that we taxpayers are going to be stuck with. He is promising huge sums left and right, all the while repeating that our finances are in sorry shape, that the economic crisis could deepen, and that our debt needs to go down, not up. ”I throw my seeds out to all the winds,”* is what he is really saying with his excessive promises. He has taken his hands off the steering wheel to put them back into our pockets, where he feels right at home. And he is spending our great grand children’s money as if it was his own.
That is, unless the silent majority he so ferociously courts (if it even exists) decides to give him his vacation pay and invite him to go see if the world is indeed round.
Thirty-five days to straighten out our collective memory. To remember that, in 2003, Jean Charest promised to deal with the problem of hospitals in the first six months of his reign, and that the problem honestly seems to have gotten worse after nine years, not better. To remember, too, that he stubbornly refused to sit down with students to find a solution, that he treated them like horse dung that you walk around in the street, and that he took advantage of the situation to show his true face with Bill 78 and Law 12.
Charest has never come out to the street with a casserole. It shows. It’s not his style. He hates the street, and yet that is where citizens go to express themselves when those in power become deaf. This has been the case throughout history in all the countries of the world. It is often the last way that people have to remind those in power that their power comes only from the goodwill of the people. I don’t think Charest has got the message. So we’ll have to tell him on September 4.
He has every intention of doing everything necessary to get the votes he so desperately wants, whatever the cost. There will be people who will be OK with playing this game and who will trade their votes for a plate of beans (which we’ve already seen happen) or for a promise that may or may not be kept. Like in the song by Felix:
“The night before the election,
You called me your son,
When the election was over,
You’d forgotten my name.”
*Meaning that he takes support where ever he can get it
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.