Quebec Premier Jean Charest quits
QUEBEC CITY - Jean Charest, former boy wonder in Brian Mulroney's Tory cabinet who later became Canada's longest-serving active premier, is quitting politics after losing his seat in Tuesday's election.
Voters in Charest's own Sherbrooke riding voted him out of office in favour of the PQ's Serge Cardin, ending a 28-year career that saw Charest win eight consecutive terms in his hometown at the federal and provincial levels.
Speaking to reporters in Quebec City Wednesday, the 54-year-old said he will stay on long enough to hand over power to Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois.
His nine-year reign as premier will end with barrel-bottom approval ratings brought about by rampant corruption allegations and an intractable, violent student strike.
But Marois had to settle for a minority government because of a better-than-expected Liberal performance.
The Grits finished just four seats behind the separatists and less than one percentage point back of the PQ in the popular vote.
First elected to Parliament in 1984 at the tender age of 26, Mulroney appointed Charest as minister for amateur sport and youth in 1986, making him the youngest cabinet minister in Canadian history.
But his career took a dive in 1990 when he was forced out of cabinet after trying to talk to a judge about an ongoing case.
The scandal could have ended his political career but Charest rebounded brilliantly, returning to cabinet in 1991 as environment minister and ascending to the party leadership after the PCs were reduced to just two seats in the 1993 election.
Charest became a national star in the run-up to the 1995 referendum, delivering passionate and patriotic speeches in his home province and across English Canada.
He performed so well for the victorious No side that he faced intense pressure to jump into provincial politics to take on his former Tory colleague, separatist premier Lucien Bouchard.
Charest agonized over the decision but ultimately decided to run for the provincial Grits in 1998.
He served as Opposition leader for five years before finally toppling the separatists in 2003 for the first of his three straight election wins.