Victory a long time coming
By JEFF GRAY
Globe and Mail Update
Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003
Quebec Liberal Leader Jean Charest's victory Monday night came after a decade of defeats and setbacks for the former federal politician.
Anyone who was a federal Progressive Conservative in 1993 knows what a massive defeat tastes like, as Canadian voters vented their anger over Brian Mulroney.
But Mr. Charest having first lost the Tory leadership race to Kim Campbell survived to fight on when the party had just two MPs in Ottawa.
Then, the former Mulroney cabinet minister was drafted by federalist forces in Quebec. He made the switch to the province's Liberal Party with much fanfare and after overwhelming pressure cast as a Canada's saviour fighting the separatist Parti Québécois in 1998.
He failed, defeated by the charismatic Lucien Bouchard, and was left to toil on the Opposition benches for five years.
He was criticized then for not knowing the province well enough a perception he has fixed by endless travelling to every corner of the Quebec. Called a creature of Ottawa by his critics, as this year's campaign wound down he vowed to lead a fight against the federal government for funds.
"We're extremely happy tonight. We've worked very hard and now we feel that we have the results but it has been five years of hard work," Mr. Charest told his supporters on Monday night.
Despite the convincing size of the Liberal majority 76 seats to the PQ's 45 he only narrowly won his Sherbrooke seat after a nail-bitingly close race.
He focused on health-care throughout the 33-day campaign, but also promised to reduce the size of government and deliver major tax cuts.
His competition on the right, Mario Dumont's Action Démocratique du Québec, crumpled as voters applied more scrutiny to its policies but Mr. Charest also lambasted the upstart party, saying it had no chance of forming a government and that any vote for the ADQ was really a vote for the PQ.