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Jean Charest’s preposterous, elitist bid to lead Canada’s Conservatives

Washington Post: 'Former cabinet minister Pierre Poilievre is the populists’ favorite, a man whose flair for rhetorical warfare against the left has made him a darling of the own-the-libs right. Savvy with social media, he has mastered the art of delivering catty, cutting comments from the floor of Parliament engineered to go viral. Always popular with the base, his vicious cross-examination of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the 2020 WE Charity scandal proved his ambition and credentials for his party’s top job.


'Poilievre’s contempt for Trudeau is supplemented by a fiscal hawk persona — the sort of conservative for whom the fight against debt, inflation and taxes is pursued with a crusader’s fervor. More recently, he has cast himself as a champion of antigovernment defiance, embracing the Ottawa truckers who brought Canada’s capital to a standstill opposing covid-19 restrictions.


'To contest Poilievre’s coronation, Jean Charest has emerged. He is an insider’s insider who, if elected prime minister, would give President Biden a run for his money as the North American leader with the longest political career. First sent to Parliament in 1984, Charest has been continuously active in the nearly four decades since, including as head of the now-defunct Progressive Conservative Party from 1993 to 1998, and premier of Quebec from 2003 to 2012.


'Despite the length of his résumé and 1997 prime ministerial candidacy, Charest is an increasingly obscure character to much of modern Canada — predictably, given how long it has been since he was a figure of national importance and how deeply Quebec-centric his career has subsequently been. As Anthony Furey put it in the Toronto Sun, “nobody under 45 who lives outside of Quebec even knows who he is.”'

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