Charest launches his ‘Built to win’ campaign for Tory leadership

Jean Charest, a minister in the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney, and Liberal Quebec premier for nine years, chose Calgary to announce he is seeking the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada.

“I know how to win,” Charest told his audience gathered in the Wild Rose craft brewery Thursday night, explaining he chose Calgary because “I wanted to make a point.”

“Alberta has to be at the table. There is no other way,” he added.

A fully bilingual Quebecer and a political moderate, Charest said his leadership run would be a “tough campaign” and he would propose a national vision based on “conservative values.”

Charest said he has a lot of respect for former Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) leaders Andrew Scheer, Erin O’Toole and Stephen Harper, “a great prime minister for this country.”

“I am running as a Conservative,” he said, and means fiscal conservativism, faith in the market-based economy, as well as support for families.

Charest touted his experience as a provincial premier, saying it gave him insight into how Canadian federalism operates. He also believes in the rule of law.

“I am a breath of fresh air,” he added.

While he and Harper took opposing views on dealing with climate change, Charest said it is possible to talk and chew gum at the same time, developing “big things” in infrastructure, pipelines and oil and gas.

The last pipeline in Quebec was built under his government, he noted, with an environmental assessment.

The federal government’s plans to raise the carbon tax by $10 to $40 per tonne on April 1 “doesn’t make sense at all,” he said.

Charest said the “terrible, terrible war” between Russia and Ukraine means that “all of a sudden” the security of energy supply is on our agenda.

“Where is Canada?” he asked, calling for more energy projects, including carbon capture and storage, blue and green hydrogen and small nuclear reactors.

Pierre Poilievre, the hard-right MP for the Ottawa area Carleton riding, was the first to announce his intention to seek the Conservative leadership, just three days after Erin O’Toole was ousted as leader by the party’s MPs in the House of Commons.

Raised in Calgary, Poilievre and his supporters have been on the attack against Charest, dismissing him as a Liberal, who supports carbon taxes and gun control.

In an interview with Montreal’s La Presse on Thursday, Charest said Poilievre’s attacks were “a compliment.”

“He is going to spend more time attacking my campaign than preparing his own,” Charest said, adding that he does not intend to answer Poilievre’s criticisms.

When Charest was Quebec premier from 2003 until 2012, Tom Mulcair was his environment minister until he split with Charest over the premier’s plans to sell off part of a provincial park for a condo development.

Mulcair left the Quebec Liberals winning a 2007 byelection for the NDP and going on to succeed Jack Layton as federal NDP leader.

Speaking on CTV Thursday, Mulcair said Poilievre is likely to point out Charest’s “ethical and integrity weakness” as premier, but Mulcair is confident Charest “will make very quick work of Pierre Poilievre.”

Charest is “structured, organized and has a big team,” who will give him boots on the ground, signing up the new party members he needs to win the leadership, Mulcair said.

The date of the leadership vote is on Sept. 10, and candidates will have until June 3 to sign up members.

At the moment, Poilievre has a commanding 41 per cent lead, followed by Charest at 10 per cent, Peter MacKay at nine per cent, Patrick Brown at three per cent, and Leslyn Lewis at two per cent, according to a Léger Marketing poll of CPC members from March 4 – 6.

Lewis placed third after MacKay in the 2020 CPC leadership race. She is now an MP and is running again.

Brown is expected to announce his candidacy soon.

Roman Baber, an independent member of the Ontario legislature, who is opposed to measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and the creep to “communism” under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, threw his hat into the race earlier this week.

READ MORE: Roman Baber promises to ‘disrupt politics’ in Tory leadership bid

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