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Liberal leader says Quebec premier must draw inspiration from Jean Charest in relationship with Ottawa

Quebec Liberal leader Marc Tanguay said Premier Francois Legault should take inspiration from former premier Jean Charest in his dealings with Ottawa. (Paul Chiasson, The Canadian Press) Quebec Liberal leader Marc Tanguay said Premier Francois Legault should take inspiration from former premier Jean Charest in his dealings with Ottawa. (Paul Chiasson, The Canadian Press)

With Quebec demanding a billion dollars from the federal government to cover the costs of asylum seekers, interim Liberal leader Marc Tanguay is bringing Jean Charest back into the public debate and arguing that François Legault would do well to "learn from him" in his relations with Ottawa.

Tanguay praised the former Liberal premier's achievements, pointing out that it was under his initiative that the Council of the Federation was created in 2003. This forum brings together the premiers of the provinces and territories and enables them to make common demands of the federal government.

"This Canadian diplomacy has made it possible to develop a common front," said Tanguay. "It gave Quebec and the provinces a position of strength vis-à-vis Ottawa and, in 2004, led to an agreement on health care in which Quebec got what it wanted, i.e. $4.3 billion, indexed at 6 per cent for the following years (for 10 years)."

"Legault was asking for $6 billion for Quebec (for health) and he only got one," added the interim Liberal leader.

The CAQ premier participates in the Council of the Federation, although he was absent from the last meeting in Halifax last November.

'He sees the federal government as a threat'

Tanguay attributes Legault's "repeated failures" to the fact that he does not really believe in the Canadian federation: "He sees the federal government as a threat, including its judges, and he does not build relationships with the other federal partners as Jean Charest did. (...) I will never miss an opportunity to ask François Legault to take inspiration from Jean Charest," he said.

Earlier this week, four Quebec government ministers called on Ottawa to curb the arrival of asylum seekers and to distribute them more evenly across the country.

The CAQ government claims that the costs associated with receiving asylum seekers now exceed one billion dollars and continues to demand reimbursement from the federal government.

On Thursday, federal minister Pablo Rodriguez did not close the door on negotiating additional amounts for asylum seekers with Quebec, but he criticised the Legault government for lacking sensitivity on the issue.

"Why always be at loggerheads with the federal government? Why not try to build a win-win relationship with the federal government? It's as if the federal government can't win when Quebec wins," said Tanguay.

A Liberal leader inspired by Charest?

Although he would like to give his political opponent some advice on whom he should draw inspiration from, Tanguay would not do the same for the person who will replace him at the head of the Quebec Liberal Party in 2025.

"I think it goes without saying that the candidates will be inspired by the successes of the Liberal premiers who preceded us," he said simply.

Charest was Premier of Quebec from 2003 to 2012. His reign came to an abrupt end in the wake of the massive Maple Spring mobilisation that ended in victory for the Parti Québécois.

The Charest government was also marred by allegations of corruption, although no charges were ever brought against the former premier.

He tried to become leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, but was soundly defeated by Pierre Poilievre in 2023.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Feb. 25, 2024. Top Stories

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