It was a relief to hear the voice of Geoffrey Kelley, our veteran Quebec politician, on the radio after the recent minority victory of the Parti Québécois. He had just been re-elected to the National Assembly for a sixth mandate to represent the Jacques Cartier riding.
Jean Charest had been shown the door by the Quebec electorate, a predictable event. Even Charest’s long run of brilliant campaigns couldn’t salvage his government in the wake of the student protests and the Charbonneau Commission. It was a shipwreck from which he just surfaced last week as a full equity partner in the prestigious law firm McCarthy Tétrault. I would guess he’s a happy man these days, especially knowing that he’ll be based in Montreal.
Let’s hope he’ll stay on hand to give those big speeches if needed.
It was the end of the Charest era maybe, but not the end of the Kelley decades. Kelley’s voice was there, reassuring, steadying the troops, calming nerves on election night. A voice of reason and relatively long experience. He sounded sensible, not panicking at all, not alarmed by the formation of a new nationalist government. It was not the end of the world, just the end of the Charest era. It was not Kelley’s first time through major political upheaval.
It is important for our towns to have an effective MNA, a coherent, forceful voice in the National Assembly. And we have been lucky in the West Island over the past 30 years with our MNAs. I think first of Clifford Lincoln, who led the way (and still leads the way) on many issues and who really helped create the idea of the “West Island.”
Then I think of Russell Williams, dynamic, outspoken and always in the news. Williams was a powerful advocate for compassion. He was one of the key lobbyists for the palliative-care residence. Just before the municipal merger with Montreal, he persuaded our town councils to contribute to the construction of the centre.
And then we come to Kelley, who has been Jacques Cartier’s MNA for the past 18 years. His record makes him one of the Liberal party elders and this explains why he is the caucus chair of the post-Charest Liberals. At the same time, our West Island veteran is the official critic for aboriginal affairs and responsible for relations with the anglophone community.
Eighteen years in politics is a long time. Kelley has seen a lot of people come and go. And he knows how the National Assembly works. Now his job is to keep his colleagues calm while his party splits up into competing Bachand/Moreau/Couillard factions competing for the leadership. Three very competent people, he assured me in a pre-Christmas chat, each one is capable of leading the Liberals back into government.
“It’s much easier being in opposition,” he assured me. “But you have to resist the tendency to be critical of everything the government proposes.
“Luckily,” he added, with his characteristic laugh, “this government provides endless opportunities for positive criticism.”
I met Kelley on Ste-Anne St. He was being driven in by his son. Kelley has never learned to drive. It gave him one good reason for enjoying the privilege of being a minister in the Charest government: He was supplied with a car and a driver, which took the pressure off his family drivers!
Now, given that our area always votes Liberal, you may want to have a say in the choosing of the new leader. All you have to do is become a Liberal Party member for $5 before Jan. 29. You will then be invited to a delegate’s selection meeting on Feb. 18 at the Holiday Inn in Pointe-Claire.
The snag is that you can’t be sure who the delegates you elect are going to vote for because your delegates are “unattached.” They can vote for any of the candidates.
And for the record, Kelley is strictly neutral. He assures me that they’re all good candidates and he’s not telling.
Bill Tierney is the former mayorof Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue.firstname.lastname@example.org