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24 years after leaving politics, Charest to launch Conservative leadership bid in Calgary

Calgary, March 10: Nearly 24 years after leaving federal politics, Jean Charest will launch his campaign to become the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.

The 63-year-old Quebecer will announce his bid at a Calgary brewery tonight, making a clear message to the party’s western Canadian base.

“I want to form a national government where Alberta and Saskatchewan will be at the table shaping decisions,” said Charest. “Not on the receiving end of other people’s decisions.”

The former leader of the now-defunct Progressive Conservative Party will face the challenge of appealing to a much different political movement.

The Conservative Party is now running its third leadership contest since 2017.

“We’re badly divided within the country, And within the Conservative Party of Canada.”

A former Quebec premier, Charest led the Quebec Liberal Party to three consecutive provincial election victories in 2003, 2007 and 2008, before resigning after a defeat in 2012.

Ottawa-area MP Pierre Poilievre was the first to declare his candidacy for Conservative leader and has already attacked Charest’s conservative credibility.

“There is only one thing more insane than these prices,” Poilievre tweeted on March 7, referring to gas prices. “That Jean Charest and Justin Trudeau want to raise them further with carbon taxes.”

Charest helped create a cap-and-trade program as Quebec premier but will not say what his climate plan will be as federal Conservative leader — only that he wants to run a positive campaign.

“Frankly I think people are tired of this kind of politics, where we keep attacking others,” Charest said. “In fact, it’s a great accomplishment that my adversaries will be spending so much time attacking me, I mean they’re saying something about themselves, much more than they are about me.”

Along with Poilievre, rookie Conservative MP Leslyn Lewis, and Independent, Ontario MPP Roman Barber have also announced their intentions to run for federal Conservative leader.

Political analysts view Charest as a more moderate candidate than his current competitors, who can appeal to the more socially conservative wing of the party.

It’s a notion the former Mulroney government cabinet minister rejects. “I’m running as a Conservative, period,” Charest said. “Not a hyphenated Conservative.”

Prospective leadership candidates have until April 19 to declare their candidacy, and put up an entry fee of $200,000, in addition to a compliance deposit of $100,000.

The deadline for membership applications is June 3 and the party will elect its next leader on Sept. 10.



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