Jean Charest: No announcement (yet), but plenty of headlines
MONTREAL -- It is, by many accounts, one of the worst-kept secrets in Canadian politics: that Jean Charest will run to replace Andrew Scheer as leader of the Conservative Party.
But while Quebec's former premier continues to remain mum on the matter, at least officially, that hasn't stopped Canadian media from reporting his candidacy as fact. To wit:
- In Thursday's La Presse+, Denis Lessard reports that all that's left to determine is the date of Charest's announcement, which Lessard reports will be next week - between Jan. 20 - 22, to be precise. Lessard also reports that Charest has a robust organizational team behind him already and that he can count on the endorsement of former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, but not that of former Conservative PM Stephen Harper.
- In Wednesday's National Post, John Ivison reported that Charest will indeed run and has hired Nick Kouvalis, the hard-nosed former strategist for late Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and current Toronto Mayor John Tory (as well as the failed Conservative leadership bid of Kellie Leitch in 2017). Ivison also reports that some sources in the Conservative Party are sceptical of Charest's Conservative bona fides, with one unnamed senior Tory telling him, "My problem with Charest is that he's not that Conservative."
- In Wednesday's Globe and Mail, Robert Fife and Steven Chase reported (story for Globe subscribers only) that Charest is part of a team from the McCarthy Tetrault law firm that is advising Huawei on the Chinese tech giant's efforts to be involved with Canada's 5G cellular network, as well as on the extradition case of Meng Wanzhou, the company's chief financial officer and daughter of its founder, Ren Zhengfei. They report that Charest's work with Huawei would appear to conflict with the Conservative Party's formal position that the Canadian government should ban the company from Canada's 5G market.
Charest's leadership prospects have also been under the microscope as of late, with a recent Leger poll finding that only four per cent of Conservative voters prefer him as the party's leader, well behind frontrunners Rona Ambrose (18 per cent) and Stephen Harper (18 per cent), although neither of them has announced plans to run.
Charest, 61, was a Progressive Conservative MP in Ottawa from 1984 to 1998 - including four and a half years as the party's leader. He was premier of Quebec from 2003 to 2012, representing the Quebec Liberal Party.