Charest loses seat; no hint yet as to his political future
SHERBROOKE, Que. - On the heels of a resounding electoral defeat, Jean Charest will likely consult his caucus before deciding on his future, according to a former cabinet minister and close ally.
Monique Gagnon-Tremblay said Charest is scheduled to meet his outgoing cabinet Wednesday and then his caucus later in the week, possibly Thursday.
Gagnon-Tremblay expects Charest to talk with his colleagues at those gatherings about whether he should stay on as Liberal leader.
"Yes, probably, because he's always consulting his caucus,'' she said at the Liberal rally in Charest's home riding of Sherbrooke, minutes after he gave his post-election speech without offering a hint about his future.
"He will do it, I'm sure, as he's used to doing it.''
Charest suffered two major defeats Tuesday. His Liberal government was relegated to the official Opposition after nine years in power and he lost his hometown seat of Sherbrooke for the first
time in nearly three decades of federal and provincial elections.
His first-ever win came on Sept. 4, 1984, 28 years to the day before Tuesday's loss.
More than 100 Liberal supporters, who had been watching voting results roll in on a giant TV screen, sat in stunned silence as their local political hero lost his government, and then his seat.
Except for a couple of gasps and some red, watery eyes, the disappointed rally participants barely made a peep when they learned that Charest's Liberals had lost the election.
Most inside the Sherbrooke hotel also remained quiet when reports later indicated Charest had lost his riding to Parti Quebecois candidate Serge Cardin, but a handful of them booed.
Charest was quick to take responsibility for the losses.
In a passionate concession speech, Charest said the Liberals once again proved the polls wrong by coming just one percentage point shy of the PQ for the overall popular vote. Surveys had suggested a much-larger gap between the parties.
Charest was also pleased that the sovereigntist PQ was only handed a minority mandate, likely enough, he said, to keep its independence aspirations in check.
"I want to say to all of you tonight, and to all of you interested in the future of Quebec, that the result of this election campaign speaks to the fact that the future of Quebec lies within
Canada,'' Charest said, drawing a big applause from the crowd.
Charest said that much work is left to be done and the Liberals will have opportunities to contribute to Quebec's future under the minority government.
Photo: Andre Pichette (La Presse)