Politics is often said to be an extreme sport. It is also said that it is the art of the possible. These borrowings from the world of sport and art are most relevant, because politics requires determination, rigor, finesse and endurance, especially when it comes to heads of government and leaders of state. On all these aspects, Jean-Charest stood out during the 10 years he was Premier of Quebec.

Today, April 14, 2023, marks the 20th anniversary of the seizure of power by Jean Charest’s Liberal Party of Quebec. This is a golden opportunity to highlight the achievements that have marked the 10 years of this Liberal government.

In 1998, the arrival of Jean Charest at the head of the Liberal Party of Quebec was part of the post-referendum era, which was itself marked by strong tensions between Quebec and the rest of Canada. as well as a decline of Quebec on the Canadian scene.

Rather than opting for Quebec to withdraw into itself, Jean Charest, then in opposition, bet on the healthy affirmation of Quebec in Canada as a whole and on the development of substantial social and economic policies, which he applied as soon as he was able to form the government.

At the dawn of the new millennium, there was, let’s not forget, a broad feeling in the population that Quebec had to be brought up to date, which had fallen behind in many respects and which seemed mired in ways of doing relatively heavy and outdated.

More precisely, from 2003 to 2012, the action of the Charest governments will be deployed in particular on the following five axes:

The Charest government was conservative from a fiscal point of view and liberal from a social point of view. The Charest years enabled Quebec’s economic recovery to take place, with the creation of the Generations Fund and budgetary discipline that enabled Quebec to regain a lasting and even rather enviable financial health compared to that of its neighbours, including Ontario.

On these two points, we should highlight, among other things, the restoration of weighted family allowances for low-income families, tax cuts of nearly a billion dollars and the introduction of parental leave.

Note also the elimination of the capital tax, which punished companies that invested and modernized. Moreover, it was the Charest government that managed the financial crisis that hit Quebec, and the whole world, in an innovative and effective way in 2008-2009.

Overall, under Jean Charest, Quebec has once again become fiscally responsible and competitive, for businesses and citizens alike.

In this regard, the Charest government struck hard with the adoption of the first law on sustainable development, the creation of a carbon exchange in partnership with California, the expansion of a considerable number of protected areas and , of course, the establishment of the “plan Nord”, which aimed – well before its time – to highlight the strategic minerals and the extraordinary riches that Quebec conceals in view of the ecological and energy transition that is underway. Right now. Moreover, it should be noted that the Plan Nord is in itself an entire economic development program.

Still on environmental and energy issues, we note the revival of large hydroelectric dams and the net strengthening of the wind power sector, all of this accompanied by very ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets, targets that have been achieved.

It is safe to say that under Jean Charest, Quebec has once again become a clean energy power and has established itself as a world leader in the fight against climate change and sustainable development.

It was in 2006 that an agreement was reached between the government and the public service regarding the complete settlement of equal pay (payment of 10 years of arrears, for a sum of one billion dollars, negotiated with the unions). , and in 2007 the first joint Council of Ministers in the history of Quebec was appointed, with nine men and nine women, the latter occupying key positions. The Charest government also passed the Act respecting parity on the boards of directors of state-owned companies. It reaffirmed its attachment to the fundamental value of equality between women and men, in particular by amending the Charter of human rights and freedoms so that it now enshrines, in its preamble, the principle that the equality between women and men is a foundation of justice in Quebec.

Respect for Quebec’s own identity and its projection throughout Canada and around the world have been undeniable and indelible marks left by the Charest government. It is under this government that Quebec will be recognized as a nation and that the Council of the Federation will be established. During these years, Quebec will also adopt a new policy on the Canadian Francophonie and conclude lucrative agreements with Ottawa, including one on health and one on parental leave.

With regard to Quebec’s international presence this time, Jean Charest was able to revive the Gérin-Lajoie doctrine of 1965, while seeking to adapt it to the contemporary context. Among the concrete achievements of his governments are the assumed leadership of Quebec – and the personal, resilient and convincing leadership of Jean Charest – concerning the Canada-Europe free trade agreement, the conclusion of the Quebec-France agreement on labor mobility, the granting of a seat for Québec within the Canadian delegation to UNESCO, the opening of new Québec delegations or offices abroad as well as the holding of the Summit of the Francophonie in 2008.

The Charest governments have made many efforts over the years to refocus the Quebec state on its essential missions: health, education and infrastructure.

In health, we owe Jean Charest, among other things, the creation of two super-hospitals in Montreal (CHUM/MUHC), the supervision of the role of the private sector – in response to the Chaoulli judgment –, the thawing of admissions in medicine and extraordinary budget growth.

On the education side this time, Jean Charest has made school perseverance and helping children in difficulty a priority thanks to massive investments. But we also owe Jean Charest two particularly structuring changes, namely the increase in teaching time by 1.5 hours per week and the teaching of English from the first year.

Moreover, the Charest government provided Quebec with its first infrastructure plan in 2007. Today, this plan is still central to the planning of the Quebec state.

As we can see, the policies adopted during the Charest decade anticipated, even prepared for, the profound transformations that Quebecers are currently experiencing. They laid the economic and social foundations of today’s Quebec.

The Charest years were without a shadow of a doubt a pivotal period in the trajectory of Quebec. We are very proud of the results of this political decade and above all very proud to have been associated with it.

In fact, 20 years ago today, Quebec was resolutely giving itself the means to achieve its ambitions!