Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lacking in judgment

The convention about giving party leaders a free pass into legislative bodies has always struck me as a bizarre concept - and based on how sporadically it gets applied, it seems that plenty of others agree. But while it's weird enough when parties voluntarily step aside in the first place, Jean Charest is taking the absurdity a step further by trying to score political points based on Mario Dumont's failure to follow suit in immediately standing down for Pauline Marois:
Premier Jean Charest says Action democratique du Quebec Leader Mario Dumont is being immature by trying to block the election of the Parti Quebecois leader to the legislature.

Charest has said he will not run a Liberal candidate against Pauline Marois in a byelection in Charlevoix riding and wants Dumont to do the same. Dumont has said he will leave it up to the local riding executive to decide, adding there is no precedent for allowing the leader of a third-placed party to run unopposed.

"He is lacking in maturity and judgment in wanting to block Mme. Marois," Charest said.
Now, there can be little doubt that the party leaders in Quebec are on the lookout for the slightest point they can make to improve their relative standing. But it still seems amazing that Charest is reaching as far as he is in order to find a difference to criticize.

After all, the aftermath of the last Quebec election was marked by talk of how the ADQ's opposition contingent included a large number of first-time members of the National Assembly (including many who may never have expected to win their seats) - raising the prospect of a regular stream of gaffes. And judging from the party's platform, one would think there's plenty of room for public criticism even when the ADQ stays on message.

What's more, while the issue of stepping aside for Marois is most likely one that people simply won't care about, I'd have to suspect that most voters who actually thought about the question of stepping aside in any depth would prefer to see a leader leave the decision to the riding level - rather than forcing his party to follow convention for the sake of following convention.

Again, the most likely result is that Charest's poor attempt to gain ground will be quickly forgotten. But it's hard not to see it as symptomatic of some serious problems within his government. And if Charest's party really doesn't have anything more to talk about than this, then it may soon be Quebec's Libs looking to extend the convention to their own new third-place leader.

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