LISTEN: Charest talks about values, elections, and Pastagate
Former premier Jean Charest says he's not comfortable with talking about politics these days, even on the hot-button issues that have cropped up in Quebec since his Liberal government was narrowly defeated by the PQ in the 2012 election — a defeat which put an end to his political career.
"I'm working very hard, Aaron, not to comment on these issues, because I'm trying to stay away," Charest told CJAD's Aaron Rand on the phone from China, where he's attending an economic mission on behalf of his McCarthy Tétrault law firm — and visiting his daughter and new granddaughter, who now lives in Hong Kong.
"All I could say is that we should be focusing on the economy and we should not be focusing on these side issues which are distracting us from the fight we're in to preserve jobs, and that should be everyone's priority."
He says, though, that he won't take part in the upcoming Quebec election campaign, unless he's invited to by his successor, Philippe Couillard.
"It's never a good idea for a past leader to [get involved] — unless he's invited back in," Charest says, saying he approves of the job Philippe Couillard is doing so far. "I get along very well with Philippe. He's doing very well as leader, and he'll win that campaign — we just have to make sure everybody gets out to support him and vote for him."
He pointed out, too, that he's not a former PQ leader, who hangs around his old party like a "mother-in-law".
As for the ongoing language battle in Quebec, he says, very few people on his world travels are terribly concerned with it.
"There's not a lot of people who get up in the morning and say, 'I wonder what's going on in Montreal today,'" he says. "The world doesn't operate that way. The Pastagate stuff does get attention...because the Economist will pick it up. But it doesn't get that much attention.
"We're really in a world where we're going to have to fight tooth and nail to get attention on some of the stuff we want to get attention on, like the economy."
On the subject of the current turmoil in Montreal municipal politics, he says politics at city hall has been in flux ever since the PQ's ill-fated municipal merger plans.
"I think there's been a lot of focus on the structure of Montreal," he says. "What is needed in leadership."