Charest, Jean

Charest, Jean zhäN shäˈrĕ [key], 1958–, Canadian politician. A lawyer and member of the Progressive Conservative party, he was a member of parliament from Quebec from 1984. From 1986 to 1993 Charest served in cabinet positions—as minister of state for youth (1986–90) and fitness and amateur sport (1988–90), minister of the environment (1991–93), and deputy prime minister (1993). After the Progressive Conservatives suffered a crushing defeat in the 1993 parliamentary elections, Charest replaced Kim Campbell as head of the badly faltering national party and pledged to rejuvenate it. In the debate that preceded the Oct., 1995, referendum on Quebec independence from Canada, Charest proved himself a highly persuasive advocate of Canadian federalism and an important counterinfluence to Lucien Bouchard's impassioned separatist stance. Charest led the his party to a modest recovery in the 1997 national elections, but in 1998 he resigned as Progressive Conservative leader to assume leadership of the Quebec Liberal party. He led the Liberals to a majority in the National Assembly in 2003 and became Quebec's premier; he remained in the post after the 2007 and 2008 elections. In 2012, however, the Parti Québécois won a plurality, and Charest lost his seat; he subsequently retired from politics.

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