Former Quebec premier Jean Charest is running to be the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. Here’s a look at who he is:
Family life: Charest is married to Michèle Dionne. They have three adult children.
Experience: First elected as a Progressive Conservative MP in the Quebec riding of Sherbrooke in 1984. He entered cabinet at 28, serving in different roles under then-prime minister Brian Mulroney, including as environment minister. From 1993 to 1998 he led the federal Progressive Conservative party before returning to Quebec to lead the provincial Liberal party. He was Quebec premier from 2003 to 2012. He has spent the past decade working in the private sector. He considered entering the Conservative leadership race in 2020, but ultimately decided against it.
Highlights: Charest is recognized as an ardent defender of federalism for his role on the ‘No’ campaign in Quebec’s 1995 referendum on sovereignty, when he was nicknamed “Captain Canada.” and also revered as a passionate speaker. His decision to exit federal politics to lead the Quebec Liberals has been characterized as answering the call at the time to stand up to Quebec separatism. He is considered a passionate speaker and he won three straight elections in Quebec, where he ushered in a cap-and-trade system.
Lowlights: The former premier lost his own seat in the 2012 provincial election when the Quebec Liberals were defeated in an election that followed massive student protests over tuition hikes. His party was also the subject of an eight-year investigation by Quebec’s anti-corruption squad into illegal party financing during Charest’s time as leader. That investigation was recently put to an end and Charest, who has never been charged, has long maintained his innocence. He sued the Quebec government in 2020 in connection with the investigation for $1 million in punitive damages and $50,000 in moral damages. The lawsuit remains active.
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press