Charest, Jean J.


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(b. Sherbrooke, Québec, 24 June 1958)

Canadian; Leader, Progressive Conservative Party 1993–8; Premier of Québec 2003–  After graduation Charest practised law, specializing in Legal Aid and Criminal Law. Elected to the Canadian House of Commons in 1984 as a Progressive Conservative, he was successively Assistant Deputy Speaker of House of Commons 1984; Minister of State (Youth) 1986–90; Minister of State (Fitness and Amateur Sport) 1988–90; Deputy Government Leader in the House of Commons 1989–90; Minister of the Environment 1991–3; Deputy Prime Minister; Minister of Industry, Science, and Technology, and of Consumer and Corporate Affairs.

The October 1993 general election produced an unmitigated disaster for the Conservatives. All twenty-five members of Kim Campbell's Cabinet, except for Charest, lost their seats. Only two Conservatives (one in New Brunswick and Charest in Québec) were elected. Never before in Canadian history had a governing party suffered such an electoral defeat. In such an unpropitious moment on 13 December 1993, Jean Charest succeeded Campbell as leader charged with the formidable task of rebuilding the Conservatives as a national party, the first French Canadian to lead the party. In the 1997 federal election, he campaigned effectively and the party won 20 seats and 18 per cent of the national vote. Charest was becoming increasingly involved in Québec politics, having campaigned very actively for a federalist Canada in the 1995 independence referendum, and provided a clear voice against the arguments of Lucien Bouchard of the Parti Québecois. The referendum was defeated by the smallest of margins. In 1998, after the resignation of Daniel Johnson as leader of the Québec Liberal Party, he was persuaded to become its leader, and he resigned as leader of the Progressive Conservatives. In 2003 he led his party to a victory over the separatist Parti Québecois and became Premier. His policy was to strengthen Québec's interests within Canada and reduce state involvement within Québec through reform and privatization. In the 2007 elections, the party was less successful and he found himself leading a minority government. As the global economic position worsened, he called a surprise election in December 2008, arguing that economic stability was the prime aim of his party at this time, and won an overall majority in the National Assembly. It was the first time in over fifty years that a party had won three consecutive terms.

Subjects: Politics.

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