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Jean Charest is a Canadian politician who briefly served as premier of Canada and, thereafter, as 29th premier of Quebec, from 2003 to 2012; the leader of the federal Progressive Conservative Party of Canada from 1993 to 1998; and the leader of the Quebec Liberal Party from 1998 to 2012. He became Premier after winning the 2003 election; after he lost the 2012 election he announced that he would be resigning as Quebec Liberal Leader and leaving politics. Charest sits as an advisor to Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission. Charest is currently a consultant for Huawei on the Meng Wanzhou case and for its 5G network plans in Canada.
|Net Worth||$10 million|
John James “Jean” Charest PC was born on June 24, 1958 (age 63 years) in Sherbrooke, Canada. He grew up in the Eastern Townships of Sherbrooke. His parents are Rita Leonard, an Irish Quebecer, and Claude “Red” Charest, a French Canadian. He obtained a law degree from the Université de Sherbrooke and was admitted to the Barreau du Québec in 1981.
Charest failed to vote in the 1980 sovereignty referendum, stating he was too busy. Some have claimed that Charest downplays his legal first name John by presenting himself in French as Jean so as to appeal more to francophone Quebecers. For example, in the 1997 federal election, Bloc Québécois MP Suzanne Tremblay attacked Charest by saying, “First, let’s recall who Jean Charest really is … his real name is John, that’s what’s on his birth certificate, not Jean.” Charest responded that, his mother being an Irish Quebecer, it was the Irish priest who baptized him that wrote John on the baptism certificate, but that he was always known as Jean in his family and with his peers as well. He also went to French schools.
Jean Charest worked as a lawyer until he was elected Progressive Conservative member of the Parliament of Canada for the riding (electoral district) of Sherbrooke in the 1984 election. From 1984 to 1986, Charest served as Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons. In 1986, at age 28, Charest was appointed to the Cabinet of then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney as Minister of State for Youth. He was thus the “youngest cabinet minister in Canadian history”.
Charest was appointed Minister of State for Fitness and Amateur Sport in 1988 but had to resign from the cabinet in 1990 after improperly speaking to a judge about a case regarding the Canadian Track and Field Association. Charest returned to the cabinet, somewhat chastened, as Minister of the Environment in 1991.
He was a candidate for the leadership of the party at the 1993 Progressive Conservative leadership convention when Mulroney announced his retirement as PC leader and prime minister. Karlheinz Schreiber alleged he gave $30,000 in cash to Charest’s campaign for the Tory leadership in 1993. However, Charest himself says it was only $10,000 although federal leadership election rules permitted such cash donations. As of 2007, rules against such donations for provincial party leadership campaigns still do not exist in Québec.
Charest impressed many observers and party members and placed a strong second to Defence Minister Kim Campbell, who had held a large lead going into the convention. Charest served as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry, Science and Technology in Campbell’s short-lived cabinet.
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In the 1993 election, the PCs suffered the worst defeat for a governing party at the federal level. Only two of the party’s 295 candidates were elected, Charest and Elsie Wayne. Charest himself was re-elected fairly handily in Sherbrooke, taking 56 percent of the vote. As the only surviving member of what turned out to be the last PC Cabinet, Charest was appointed interim party leader and confirmed in the post in April 1995. Charest, therefore, became the first (and as it turned out, only) person of francophone descent to lead the Progressive Conservative Party.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Jean Charest was involved in the constitutional debate that resulted from Quebec’s refusal to sign the Canadian Constitution of 1982. He was a special committee member charged with examining the Meech Lake Accord in 1990, which would have given the province of Quebec the status of a “distinct society”. The accord ultimately failed. During the 1995 referendum on Quebec’s sovereignty, Charest was vice-president of the “No” campaign (Comité national des Québécoises et des Québécois pour le NON).
In the 1997 federal election, Charest campaigned in favor of Quebec’s being constitutionally recognized as a distinct society. In the election, the Tories received 19 percent of the vote and won 20 seats, mostly in Atlantic Canada. The party was back from the brink, but Charest considered the result a disappointment. While the Tories finished only a point behind Reform, their support was too dispersed west of Quebec to translate into seats. They were also hampered by vote-splitting with Reform in rural central Ontario, a traditional Tory stronghold where Reform had made significant inroads.
Jean Charest gave in to considerable public and political pressure, especially among business circles, to leave federal politics and become the leader of the Quebec Liberal Party in April 1998. Charest was considered by many to be the best hope for the federalist QLP to defeat the sovereigntist Parti Québécois government. In the 1998 election, the Quebec Liberals received more votes than the PQ, but because the Liberal vote was concentrated in fewer ridings, the PQ won enough seats to form another majority government. Charest won his own riding of Sherbrooke with a majority of 907 votes.
Charest led the Quebec Liberals to a majority in the April 2003 election, ending nine years of PQ rule. He declared he had a mandate to reform health care, cut taxes, reduce spending and reduce the size of government. Charest’s Liberals won 76 seats, formed a majority government, and won his own riding of Sherbrooke with a majority of 2597 votes.
His first two years as Premier of Quebec were marked by stiff and vocal opposition to his policies by Quebec labor unions. Indeed, the Charest government consistently sought new sources of revenue, increasing hydro rates, raising auto insurance premiums, increasing fees for various government services, and imposing a carbon tax on businesses. They did, however, refrain from raising the Provincial Sales Tax to make up for the loss of revenue caused by the decision of the federal government to reduce the Goods and Services Tax to 5 percent.
They also continued the Parti Québécois drive to provide subsidies and tax breaks for families with children. During his mandate as Premier, he made some efforts to expand the place of Québec in the international community. The province was granted representation at UNESCO, the cultural branch of the United Nations. Charest also voiced some support for the Calgary Declaration (1997), which recognized Quebec as “unique.”
Much of the fiscal policy of the Charest government was based upon the expectation that new revenues could be obtained from a resolution of the fiscal imbalance believed to exist between the federal and provincial governments. The Harper government was widely expected to address this issue through increased equalization payments while falling short of Quebec’s overall demands.
Jean Charest also attempted to distinguish himself on the issue of the environment. His vocal opposition to the federal decision to opt-out of the Kyoto Accord, and his insistence that Quebec would seek to meet its own Kyoto targets has earned him considerable support. His government set ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets, petroleum royalties, and a 2011-2020 Action Plan for Electric Vehicles.
He also established the Sustainable Development Act, which adds to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms the right for every person to live in a healthful environment in which biodiversity is preserved. On May 9, 2011, Charest launched the Plan Nord, the work of a generation that brings together the imperatives of environmental, social, and economic growth and sustainability. In 2012, Charest was awarded the Fray International Sustainability Award for his work and advocacy towards sustainable development in politics.
In the 2003 election, Jean Charest had promised to allow the cities that had been forcibly merged by the Parti Québécois government to hold referendums which would allow them to demerge and return to their previous situation. This promise was seen as key to his victory in many ridings, such as those in the suburbs around Longueuil and Quebec City and the continued support of the Anglophone community in the West Island of Montreal.
In-office, however, Jean Charest retreated from his promise. Municipalities were allowed to hold demerger referendums if at least 10 percent of the electorate signed a petition calling for them, and only if more than 35 percent participated in the voting process. In some former municipalities, such as Saint Laurent on the Island of Montreal, the turnout of the vote was 75.2 percent in favor of a demerger, but it was invalidated because the voter turnout was just 28.6 percent.
The demerger process also resulted in the restructuring of the existing megacities, with both these and the demerged cities handing over massive powers over taxation and local services to the new “agglomeration councils”. The makeup of these councils was based on the population of the municipalities involved, with the mayors having the right to unilaterally appoint all of the individuals who would represent their cities on the council.
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The resulting structure was seen by many to be less democratic than the one which had preceded it, as demerged municipalities were denied an effective voice, and the city councils of the major cities were substantially weakened by the power of the mayors to go over the heads of opposition councilors and exercise power through their appointees to the agglomeration body. During the debate in the Parliament of Canada over recognizing Quebec as a nation within Canada, Charest stated that Quebec was a “nation” no matter what other parts of Canada said—that this was not up to anyone else to define.
The Charest government was deeply unpopular during its first years in office, enjoying a public approval rating of below 50 percent in most opinion polls and falling to the low twenties in voter support. In the first few weeks after André Boisclair was elected leader of the PQ, polls showed that Charest and the Liberals would be roundly defeated in the next election. Boisclair did not perform well as Leader of the Opposition, and Charest’s numbers recovered somewhat.
A poll conducted by Léger Marketing for Le Devoir placed the Liberals at 34 percent against 32 percent for the PQ and 24 percent for the ADQ, with Charest obtaining a higher personal approval rating than the PQ leader. Liberal support, however, remained heavily concentrated in Anglophone and Allophone ridings in the west of Montreal, meaning that the increase in support would not necessarily translate into seats.
Charest faced no real challenges to his leadership. There was, however, significant tension between himself and members of the party, most notably the former Bourassa cabinet minister Pierre Paradis (whom Charest excluded from his cabinet) and the resignations of several important members of his cabinet, notably Finance Minister Yves Séguin, Justice Minister Marc Bellemare, and Environment Minister Thomas Mulcair.
On February 21, 2007, Charest asked the Lieutenant-Governor to dissolve the National Assembly and call an election on March 26, 2007. Charest conducted an extraordinary session the day before with Finance Minister Michel Audet delivering the 2007 budget. Prior to his call for an election, Charest revealed his platform which included income tax cuts of about $250 million. In the last week of the campaign, Charest promised an additional $700 million in tax cuts—some of it coming for the additional equalization money from the 2007 federal budget; reduction of hospital wait times; improvement and increase of French courses at school; an increase of the number of daycare spaces; and an increase in tuition fees for university students ($50 per semester until 2012). The last measure was met with criticism from students’ associations, and a more-radical student association, the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (formerly known as the CASSEE) had also considered a strike.
Charest won a minority government in the election, and held onto his own seat. On election night, early numbers had shown Charest losing his seat of Sherbrooke to his PQ opponent; however, this situation was reversed once it became apparent that the advanced poll ballot boxes which heavily favoured Charest had not yet been counted. The resulting minority government was the first since 1878 when Charles Boucher de Boucherville was Premier.
In November 2008, arguing that Quebecers needed a majority government during difficult economic times, Charest called a snap election for December 8. His party captured a historic third consecutive term as he brought the Liberals back to majority governance. It was the first time a party had won a third consecutive term in Quebec since the Quiet Revolution.
In 2011, the Charest government decided to increase the tuition fees in all Quebec universities. Three major student unions began to organise demonstrations in Montreal and in Quebec City. In March 2012, many CEGEPs and universities voted for a student strike. The government faced major challenges when students demonstrated and went on strike by boycotting classes to protest planned tuition increases. Every month large demonstrations took place in several cities across Quebec. The Premier and his government were accused by some, including the students unions, the PQ and Québec Solidaire of being too hard.
On May 4, 2012, the Quebec Liberal Party held a party conference in Victoriaville and a student demonstration was suppressed by Sûreté du Québec police. On May 14, 2012, then Deputy Premier and Education minister, Line Beauchamp resigned and Michelle Courchesne was appointed Deputy Premier and Minister of Education. The government passed Bill 78 to impose restrictions on protests; this caused controversy, with the Barreau du Québec, among others, expressing concern about possible infringement of constitutional rights. Bill 78 was revoked by the Pauline Marois government.
On August 1, 2012, Jean Charest launched his electoral campaign for the 2012 Quebec general election from the Quebec Jean-Lesage International Airport with the slogan For Quebec. The QLP focused its campaign on the issues of respect of the law and civil order, referencing the demonstrations of the previous months. They claimed to be the party of the silent majority who did not support the student protest movement. It was the first provincial election in Quebec to feature the newly-formed CAQ party lead by François Legault on the ballot.
Jean Charest is married to his longtime girlfriend Michèle Dionne, they had their wedding in June 21, 1980 in a private ceremony. The couple have three children, Amélie Charest, Antoine Charest, and Alexandra Charest. He is fully bilingual in French and English. However, on the night of September 4, 2012, Jean Charest and his party lost the general election. The result was a hung parliament, with the Parti Québécois of Pauline Marois being the party with the most seats (54). The Quebec Liberal Party became the official opposition with 50 seats. Jean Charest lost his own seat of Sherbrooke, in The Eastern Townships, a seat that he had held since 1984, both in the federal and provincial legislatures. Jean Charest announced, on September 5th, in Quebec City that he would resign as Quebec Liberal Party leader.
Jean Charest net worth
How much is Jean Charest worth? Jean Charest net worth is estimated at around $10 million. His main source of income is from his career as a former prime minister of Canada. Charest successful career has earned him luxurious lifestyles and some fancy cars trips. He is one of the richest and most influential politicians in Canada. However, On December 6, 2007, the Opposition urged Charest to testify to the House of Commons of Canada Ethics Committee in its investigation of Karlheinz Schreiber. Schreiber told the committee he paid $30,000 in cash to Charest’s brother to help fund the current Prime Minister’s 1993 leadership bid for the federal Progressive Conservative party.