Quebec Premier Jean Charest says he won't testify at any parliamentary hearing into the $39 billion loss at the Caisse de depot et placement in 2008. The opposition is howling for a parliamentary inquiry, but the premier is holding out.
The facts in this matter are ugly but relatively simple.
The Caisse took much bigger risks with our investment money than they ought to have and when the market collapsed our investments were hurt badly.
For many years now, the government had adopted a hands off approach and investment decisions were made exclusively by the Caisse itself. The ex-boss of the Caisse, Henri-Paul Rousseau said that he hadn't heard from any politician the entire six years that he was there.
Now the story is disappointing, but not particularly compelling, so what else is there to clear up?
Plenty!.....and it has nothing to do with what happened at the Caisse, it has to do with what happened in the Premier's office.
The Premier is fighting tooth and nail not to testify at a public inquiry because if he does, his political career will be effectively over. He can start planning his next life.
The one question that hasn't been asked and the one that will destroy him, is this one.
"When did you first find out about the disastrous situation at the Caisse?"If the Premier admits that he knew of the catastrophe at the Caisse before calling the election, the public will never forgive him for the cynical deception. They will rightfully assume that they were deceived and nobody but nobody, federalist or nationalist enjoys being played. It doesn't matter if it takes four years until the next election, the Premier will pay the price, just as the federal Liberals paid the price for the Adscam scandal.
I am surprised that the opposition is not making more political hay out of this, they seem to be blowing a golden opportunity to inflict a mortal wound. They don't even need an inquiry, they can fire away at the Premier during question period and through the press.
Notwithstanding, I don't think they should hold their breath for an answer. Our cagey Premier will not answer, no matter what, even if it is hugely embarrassing. He has no alternative but to brazen it out.
I'm sure that there are those in the Liberal party snickering behind the Premier's back at the situation he created.
They should not. Had the Premier not undertaken the deception, many of those Liberals would not have jobs today and perhaps Pauline Marois or Mario Dumont would be sitting in the Premier's office.
Politics is a tough business, Charest did what he had to do. Our Premier did nothing illegal although he certainly crossed ethical lines.
But when did ethics ever have anything to do with politics?