Former Quebec premier Jean 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, says a source close to Mr. Charest.
At this point, the only declared candidate in the race prompted by last month’s caucus ouster of Erin O’Toole is Ottawa-area MP Pierre Poilievre.
Mr. Charest, a former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister under Brian Mulroney who went on to serve as a Liberal premier of Quebec, would likely not run if the committee working on leadership rules recommends a June convention, but would likely run if the convention is held in August or September, the source said.
The former premier’s wife, Michèle Dionne, and their three children are supportive of his run, said the source close to Mr. Charest. The Globe and Mail is not identifying the source because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matters involving Mr. Charest.
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.
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.
On Tuesday, Ms. Bergen announced changes to the critics ranks of the party. These included naming Quebec MP Gérard Deltell as innovation, science and industry critic after previously removing him as house leader. Ontario MP Eric Duncan, the first openly gay Conservative MP, was removed from his post as caucus secretary and replaced by Saskatchewan MP Warren Steinley.
Also Tuesday, a number of prominent Conservatives released an open letter urging Mr. Charest to run.
“Your record, even before becoming Premier of Quebec, was already very impressive. Your 28 years of experience in active politics makes you the right person to take the reins of the Conservative Party and the Government of Canada,” reads the letter.
“Your ability to lead our country would be in stark contrast to the current Federal Liberal government.
Among the signatories to the letter is Quebec MP Alain Rayes, who stepped down as the Conservative’s deputy leader saying he wanted to get involved in the leadership race. On Tuesday he tweeted a copy of the letter along with the comment: “There is no doubt that Jean Charest would be THE best person to lead our Party and our country. An experienced and qualified statesman.”
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 Leger, 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.
In an interview, Mr. Leger said he spoke to Mr. Charest on Sunday and that the former premier seemed “genuinely interested” in the job.
Mr. Leger acknowledged the challenges of leading the Conservatives, a party of various vocal constituencies – including social conservatives and fiscal conservatives, Westerners and representatives of other regions.
But Mr. Leger noted Mr. Charest has previously moved between federal and Quebec politics, demonstrating a flexibility that would be helpful as the Conservatives seek to present a united front to voters.
“That will be his challenge. The challenge is to represent the interests in the broad Conservative family,” he said. “He understands the complications of being a leader of the Conservative Party, which is not easy by a long shot as we have seen, but it’s not easy to manage any political party.”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Jean Charest has two sons. In fact, he has two daughters and a son.
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