A prominent Quebec Conservative MP is urging Jean Charest to seek the leadership of the federal party.
Gerard Deltell, a former leader of the Action démocratique du Québec from 2009 to the merger of the party with the Coalition Avenir Québec in 2012, said the former premier has the best political skills to defeat the governing Liberals in Ottawa.
“I know him pretty well because I have been a journalist for six years at the National Assembly when he was official opposition leader and premier of Quebec and also because I was his opponent for four years,” he said in an interview Sunday.
“What we need in our party is someone to rally people to us, who will unite our party and to attract people to our party.”
Mr. Deltell, who was until recently Conservative House Leader and is now critic for the Department of Innovation, is the third Quebec MP to come out in support of Mr. Charest.
At this point, the only declared candidate in the race prompted by last month’s caucus ousting of Erin O’Toole is Ottawa-area MP Pierre Poilievre.
Jenni Byrne, a former top aide to Stephen Harper who is supporting Mr. Poilievre, has attacked Mr. Charest. She tweeted that as premier, he opposed Mr. Harper’s move to dismantle the gun registry, brought in a carbon tax and worked for Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies while Beijing had jailed two Canadians.
Mr. Deltell said he doesn’t want to engage in mudslinging, but Mr. Charest will provide an explanation this week for why he worked for Huawei and “I can assure you we will not be ashamed for what Mr. Charest has done.”
He said Mr. Charest is best suited to win seats in Quebec, where the party has just 10 of the 75 ridings, as well as urban ridings in Ontario, the West and in Atlantic Canada.
The Globe and Mail reported last week that Mr. Charest is inclined to seek the leadership of the federal Conservative Party but is waiting to see the rules of the race before he makes a final decision, according to a source close to Mr. Charest.
Details of the Conservative leadership race, including the timing of a convention, are now being developed by a 21-member leadership election organizing committee. When an organizing committee was last assembled in 2019, it took a about a month to draft the rules.
The leadership opened up when the Conservative caucus voted 73 to 45 on Feb. 2 to remove Mr. O’Toole as leader, capping tensions between Mr. O’Toole and some caucus members. Candice Bergen is the party’s interim leader.
Mr. Charest, now 63, was Quebec premier from 2003 until 2012. As a Progressive Conservative, he was deputy prime minister in 1993 under Kim Campbell, and leader of the opposition PCs from 1993 to 1998.
Last Tuesday, a number of prominent Conservatives released an open letter urging Mr. Charest to run. Among the signatories to the letter is Quebec MP Alain Rayes, who stepped down as the Conservatives’ deputy leader saying he wanted to get involved in the leadership race.
Other signatories are former Ontario MP David Sweet; Ontario MP John Nater, who is the opposition’s heritage critic; Nova Scotia MP Rick Perkins; New Brunswick Senator Percy Mockler; Louis Léger, the chief of staff in the office of New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs; Leo Power, a former director of the Conservative Fund Canada, and Quebec MP Dominique Vien.