Jean Charest: Quick facts about the Conservative leadership candidate

·2 min read

OTTAWA — Jean Charest has had a long run in Canadian politics. He was a cabinet minister under Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney, a key "No" campaigner in the 1995 Quebec referendum and later a long-serving premier of the province. After 10 years in the private sector, Charest is back and vying to lead a much-changed federal Conservative party.

Born: June 24, 1958.

Early years: Charest was born in Sherbrooke, Que., in the eastern part of the province. He studied to become a lawyer, earning a law degree from the Université de Sherbrooke.

Before politics: He was called to the Quebec bar in 1981 and practised law for a few years, but Charest joined the political scene early. Not long after turning 26, he was elected to represent Sherbrooke for the Progressive Conservatives in the 1984 federal election.

Political record: Charest became the youngest cabinet minister in history at 28 when he was named Mulroney's minister for youth. He became minister of sport in 1988, a position he resigned two years later amid a scandal over judicial interference. He returned to cabinet in 1991 as environment minister. In 1993, he was runner-up to Kim Campbell in a leadership contest and served briefly as her deputy prime minister and industry minister. He took over leadership of the party shortly after her election defeat. The mid-1990s saw a focus on Quebec's push for sovereignty, with Charest serving as vice-president of the successful "No" campaign in the 1995 referendum. In 1998, Charest was wooed to lead the Quebec Liberals, which he brought to a majority government by 2003. He served as premier for nine years, hailed as a fiscal reformer but with his government and party battling corruption scandals. A provincial anticorruption unit investigation into his government's dealings wrapped up in early 2022 and made no findings of wrongdoing.

Private sector: Charest is a partner with McCarthy Tétrault LLP and was briefly a consultant for Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications company banned earlier this year from participating in Canada's 5G networks over cyberespionage concerns.

Family: Charest married Michèle Dionne in 1980. They have three children.

Quote: “Am I ready to stand up for the things I believe in even if they are unpopular? The answer is yes. Because in the end, for me, it’s about doing the right thing. Otherwise what’s the point of politics? What’s the point? Just read the polls and follow them? Politics isn’t some sort of a cheap parade where you just throw yourself in front of the crowd and try to lead it. It’s about change. It’s about the country. It’s about the idea that we have about Canada.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 4, 2022.

Marie-Danielle Smith, The Canadian Press