Jean Charest stepped down yesterday as the leader of Québec’s Parti libéral du Québec (Liberal Party, or PLQ), following his loss in Tuesday’s election for the 125-seat Assemblée nationale.
His party finished less than 0.75% behind the soveriegntist Parti québécois (PQ), and it won just 50 seats to the PQ’s 54. But those four extra seats mean that the PQ will form a minority government under Pauline Marois, bringing Charest’s nine years as premier to an end. Charest himself lost the seat that he has held since 1998 in his election district of Sherbrooke (where he also held a federal seat in the House of Commons from 1984 until leaving federal politics to take the helm of the PLQ).
The race is on to replace him, although outgoing justice minister Jean-Marc Fournier has already said he’s not running, and the remaining candidates are hardly well-known figures:
- Raymond Bachand, Charest’s finance minister since 2009, has only been a MNA since 2005 and, at age 64, may be viewed as too old for the leadership.
- Pierre Moreau, an MNA since 2003, was most recently Charest’s transportation minister.
- Sam Hamad, also an MNA since 2003, the is Syrian-born, a former minister of labour, employment and transport, and most recently minister of economic development.
- Pierre Paradis, an MNA since 1980, who clashed with Charest and never served in Charest’s cabinet, was previously a candidate in the 1983 leadership race that Robert Bourassa won.
In fact, the 1983 contest that Bourassa won was the last contested PLQ leadership race. Bourassa, who was premier of Québec from 1970 to 1976, resigned after losing the 1976 election to the PQ, only to return in 1983 to provincial politics — he would thereupon return as premier from 1985 to 1994.
After nearly three decades at the pinnacle of Canadian and Québécois politics, surely Charest deserves a break — to be a grandfather and to reclaim a bit of his own life.
But was Charest’s decision the right one politically? Continue reading What next for Liberal leader Jean Charest?