Charest to meet with Conservative MPs in Ottawa to discuss party leadership

By Stephanie Taylor
Canadian Press

While the race to lead the Conservative Party of Canada may still only have one contender, its members of Parliament are being invited to meet with a potential second.

Former Quebec premier Jean Charest will be in Ottawa this week to discuss the party’s leadership with Conservative MPs at an event hosted by two who want him to run.

Quebec MP Alain Rayes and Nova Scotia’s Rick Perkins were among the signatories of an open letter published last week saying they want the 63-year-old to enter the race. Others included Ontario MP John Nater and New Brunswick Sen. Percy Mockler.

A copy of the invitation obtained by The Canadian Press invites Conservative MPs to meet with Charest Wednes- day evening to discuss the party’s top job.

“As you know, Jean Charest is currently being encouraged to stand for the Conservative leadership,” it reads.

A spokesman for Rayes’ office confirmed that Charest will be in Ottawa on Wednesday and says over the past few weeks several MPs and senators have expressed an interest in speaking to him, which is why the event was arranged.

Charest left federal poli- tics in 1998 after serving as leader of the Progressive Con- servative Party and following time spent in former prime minister Brian Mulroney’s government.

After leaving Parliament Hill he became leader of the Quebec Liberal Party and was premier of that province from 2003 until 2012.

As Charest mulls a po- tential run for Conservative party leadership, an investiga- tion into allegations of illegal party financing by the Que- bec Liberals during his time as leader by that province’s anti-corruption police was brought to an end on Monday.

He released a short state- ment welcoming the investi- gation’s closure, saying that it weighed heavily on his per- sonal life and that of his family’s.

So far only high-profile Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre has declared his intention to run for the party’s top spot after a majority of MPs voted to oust former leader Erin O’Toole from the position last month.

No date has yet been set for the race as the party’s leader- ship election committee is still meeting and must decide how many months the contest will last and what will be the criteria for entering — something MPs and party members in all camps are eager to see.

That means Poilievre, who stated his intention to run almost one month ago, is not yet able to begin fundraising. His team is, however, collecting data for future membership sales and donations through different petitions.

Poilievre has spent the past month appealing to members who want to see an end to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and restrictions, fashioning himself as a champion for freedom. He threw his support behind truckers and protesters who travelled to Parliament Hill to decry government-imposed pandemic measures, who were recently cleared out by police after local leaders deemed their refusal to leave an occupation. Many Conservative MPs have endorsed Poilievre.

Besides Charest, another potential candidate who could rival Poilievre is Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown. Brown, who formerly led the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, is up for re-election in Brampton later this year and has deep political roots in the region.

Former cabinet minister Peter MacKay is another possible contender as is Lesyln Lewis, the Ontario MP who placed third in the party’s 2020 leadership race, thanks to a heavy backing from social conservatives and party members in Western Canada.

Recently, she emailed supporters asking if she had their support should she decide to run again.