BirthJune 24, 1958 in Sherbrooke
Party LeaderApril 30, 1998 to September 19, 2012
PremierApril 29, 2003 to September 04, 2012
Jean Charest had an extraordinary political journey over the course of which his great determination, resilience, and leadership made possible accomplishments that will continue to benefit future generations.
Born in Sherbrooke in 1958, he was admitted to the Quebec Bar in 1981 and practised in his hometown until 1984. He attended high school at Sherbrooke’s école Montcalm, pursued collegial studies at the Séminaire de Sherbrooke, and graduated from the University of Sherbrooke.
Elected as a federal MP at only 26 years old, he would go on to become the country’s youngest minister two short years later. As Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Charest worked alongside the head of the NO campaign and QLP Leader Daniel Johnson during the 1995 Referendum, playing a significant part in preventing the separation of Quebec from the rest of the country.
He was only 39 when he became Leader of QLP on April 30, 1998, following Daniel Johnson’s departure two months prior. During the election on November 30 of that same year, while the QLP won more votes than Lucien Bouchard’s Parti Québécois, this lead did not materialize in a greater number of ridings. Charest therefore made his entry as Leader of the Official Opposition in November, with 48 MNAs.
From 1998 to 2002, he held countless tours and meetings all across Quebec, interspersed with general councils, symposia, and conferences with his MNAs. Victory, obtained with the spring 2003 election, had been hard earned over those four years.
When the QLP was handed the reins, the economy was suffering, whereas the rest of the world was rejoicing in its most significant period of growth in decades. Over the span of several years, Charest and his government therefore carried out an ambitious state modernization plan. He redefined the State’s role in his essential missions.
The economy was one of his core priorities over the course of the three consecutive mandates with which Quebecers would entrust him until 2012. As rarely seen throughout its history, Quebec broke records in the increase of the employment rate and the decrease of the unemployment rate and the number of individuals on welfare. His meticulous management of public funds, praised by international rating agencies due to measures such as the creation of the Generations Fund and the massive infrastructure modernization work, speaks to Charest’s constant concern for the future.
To that end, he implemented the world’s most generous family policies. Seniors benefited from unprecedented support and protection measures. The disadvantaged were given increased access to health care thanks to massive reinvestments in hospitals and the training of a record number of physicians and nurses. Children attended renovated schools and were offered more hours of instruction with fewer students per class. As early as Grade One, Quebec students now had the capacity to choose English as a second language.
For them, as for the province as a whole, the future would be met with confidence and openness, which is what guided Jean Charest in his relations with other provinces. With formidable success, he opened new markets on all continents, signed new alliances, and created a new economic space for Quebec.
He committed to making Quebec a world leader in clean energy with the return of energy construction sites, including the emergence of a wind energy industry. Moreover, the actions he took to fight against climate change and to protect the environment have been recognized well beyond Quebec’s borders.
Lastly, with the Plan Nord, he considered the full mining, energy, and tourist potential of the vast northern region through a concept of sustainable development. The impacts will not only benefit all regions of the province, but also generations to come.