Politicians aren’t supposed to want summer elections. Voters are distracted and campaign workers are on holiday. Moreover, this year the Olympics are dominating the news. But for Jean Charest, the unpopular Liberal premier of Quebec (pictured in effigy above), an under-the-radar campaign represents his best chance of winning a fourth term. It was thus no surprise that on August 1st he called an election to be held on September 4th—long before it is required by December 2013. The rest of Canada will be watching closely. Although the Canadian economy has weathered the global recession well—it grew by 2.8% between 2008 and 2011, compared with just 1.1% in the United States—it owes its resilience mostly to the energy and commodity boom in the country’s four western provinces, where unemployment is only 5.5%. In contrast, it is 7.9% in the six eastern provinces, which rely on manufacturing and services, and 7.7% in Quebec. Home to nearly a quarter of Canada’s people, Quebec will test whether the country’s manufacturing base can recover, even as oil exports bolster the currency.
Saying it is time for Quebec’s “silent majority” to express itself in a year marked by massive and sometimes violent student protests, Premier Jean Charest announced Wednesday his province would head to the polls in early September. Charest will be seeking a fourth mandate as premier of the French-speaking province in the Sept. 4 election. Polls have shown his party closely trailing the opposition, separatist Parti Quebecois. Quebec does not have set election dates. Charest said Quebec’s people don’t recognize themselves in the violent acts perpetrated by the demonstrators, which he said caused economic and social turbulence. More than 2,500 people have been arrested since protests began over rising tuition fees in February in what became Canada’s most sustained protests ever. Charest also criticized the PQ’s embrace of the protest movement.