Jean Charest finally kicked his family minister, Tony Tomassi, out of cabinet and caucus last Thursday. Quebec's Premier forced Mr. Tomassi to resign after reports surfaced that he had made personal use of a gas company credit card belonging to a Montreal securities firm. Mr. Tomassi had been a thorn in the Liberals' side for months after he was accused last year of awarding public daycare spaces to party donors.
Mr. Charest had defended Mr. Tomassi in the past, but wasted no time demanding his resignation last week. As allegations of corruption continue to plague the Quebec Liberals, the consensus among political observers is that Mr. Charest's dismissal of Mr. Tomassi was, once again, too little, too late.
In Le Devoir on Friday, Josée Boileau renewed her demand for a full public inquiry into corruption within the Charest government. She contended that Mr. Tomassi's inappropriate credit card use is just more proof that there is " an absence of ethics" within the Liberal inner circle.
On the same day, Voir's Josée Legault accused Mr. Charest of waiting too long to get rid of Mr. Tomassi, who, she argued, should have been fired months ago, when he was first accused of favouritism in the granting of daycare permits.
In his La Presse column, Vincent Marissal agreed that Mr. Charest had probably waited too long to get rid of Mr. Tomassi. He wondered why Mr. Charest had not been more "curious" about how Mr. Tomassi was doing his job. Despite ongoing allegations against Mr. Tomassi, Mr. Marissal observed that Mr. Charest "apparently did not feel the need to know more" about the former minister and "his friends" in the private sector.
In a post to his blog on the Actualité site, Jean-Francois Lisée also found it surprising that Mr. Charest had no idea what Mr. Tomassi was doing. " What did he do to try to find out?" Mr. Lisée wondered, "After months of allegations about the behaviour of his Famiy Minister, did [Mr. Charest]send someone - from his entourage, from the party, from the outside - to ask some questions, to meet the minister's staff, to interrogate Tony himself?" Mr. Lisée contended that Mr. Charest "knows what he knows and he knows that there are things he doesn't know" and seems to prefer not to find out what he doesn't know, especially not via a public inquiry into corruption in his government.
Le Soleil editorialist Brigitte Breton called Mr. Charest's dismissal of Mr. Tomassi an act of " political theatre." Ms. Breton did not think dismissing Mr. Tomassi over his use of a credit card was going to be enough to regain the public's trust in the Liberal Party. "For the past year, there have been too many allegations of collusion, corruption and favouritism in the construction industry, with subsidized daycares and in the financing of the Liberal party for Quebeckers to be content with the sacrifice of a single minister," Ms. Breton wrote.
Column of the week
La Presse's Alain Dubuc analyzes results of a poll published last week in La Presse, which found that 9 out of 10 Quebeckers were " discouraged or disgusted" by their politicians. "To sum up the results of the poll," Mr. Dubuc writes, "According to Quebeckers, politicians are dishonest, lazy liars." Mr. Dubuc calls the results of the poll " crushing and depressing" because it illustrates Quebeckers' disappointment in their political class, but also "their ignorance of politics." As many of his colleagues continue to rail against endemic corruption in the political system, Mr. Dubuc bucks the trend, arguing that Quebeckers' harsh judgement of their political representatives is "unfair" and "does not correspond with reality."
Mr. Dubuc admits he often criticizes politicians in his columns, but he argues that "the vast majority of politicians are honest." Mr. Dubuc admits that the current "disillusion and resentment" is partly the result of serious allegations of corruption in the Liberal party. But he argues that the resentment runs deeper than anger over these recent scandals, because, for years, polls have shown Quebeckers losing faith in politicians of all political stripes. Mr. Dubuc points to three possible causes for the trend:
1) In an age of public debt, devoid of great mobilizing projects, politicians have a "thankless" and difficult job that involves continually making unpopular decisions;
2) The increasingly partisan nature of political discourse which is exacerbated by televising debates in the National Assembly;
3) The increasingly complex nature of political problems coupled with increasingly simplistic media coverage.
Mr. Dubuc argues that all of these factors combine to create "a vicious circle" that makes political life increasingly unattractive to the kinds of bright, young politicians needed to regain the public's confidence in the system.