Jean Charest mulls foray into Tory leadership race


OTTAWA—Longtime Quebec politician Jean Charest was greeted with hugs and applause late Wednesday in what was his first public foray into the leadership race for the federal Conservative party.

The stakes are high for the former federal Progressive Conservative leader, already being slammed as a Liberal by other federal Tories.

But Charest was jovial when asked on his way into the small reception — held in the aptly-named Quebec room of the famous Chateau Laurier hotel — whether he was going to run.

“Where to?” I joked.

In earnest, Charest said he is waiting for the rules of the race itself to be revealed by the party before making an official decision. Those details are expected in the coming days.

He said one thing he knows already:

“One thing that I believe to be very important is to have a national Conservative party that is able to represent every part of Canada,” he said.

“It’s really our responsibility to be that national political party.”

Charest said the rules will tell him whether a campaign is viable — he will have enough time to sign up members is a key point, his team told the Star.

Charest’s campaign already has the support of a number of Quebec MPs, but lawmakers from Nova Scotia, Ontario and Alberta were among those in the crowd.

He said he was there to hear from them about their concerns, and many said they were there to hear Charest’s ideas.

Calgary MP Greg McLean said while some might knock Charest’s progressive credentials, it’s not a bad thing.

“It is something he brings to the table that is laudable,” McLean said on his way into the event.

“A lot of people in Alberta still believe we need a Progressive Conservative type of government.”

So far, there is only one officially declared candidate in the race, career MP Pierre Poilievre.

He has amassed considerable support from the caucus already — some on his side held their own private event on Thursday at the same time.

Others took to social media, circulating a graphic that equaled him to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, for his support of carbon taxes and the now-defunct long-gun registry.

He was in favor of both while serving as premier of Quebec, where he also raised provincial sales tax.

“I’m with grassroots Conservative Party members, Alberta MP Shannon Stubbs wrote.

“Our leader must share our values, and respect our policies. I’m against the carbon tax, the long-gun registry, and for tax cuts, not tax hikes.”

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