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Conservative Party leadership race | Charest open to new pipelines



(Ottawa) True to his past positions, Jean Charest is keeping the door open to the idea of ​​approving new pipeline construction projects in the country. The former premier of Quebec, who will confirm Thursday in Calgary that he is running for the leadership of the Conservative Party, says that Canada must ensure its energy security at all costs.

The war in Ukraine brings to the fore the importance of this issue not only in Canada, but throughout North America and Europe, he believes.

“We can’t afford to be at the mercy of anyone energetically. Nor is there any reason to be because we have resources. We have them all,” said the former Prime Minister in a long interview with The Press24 hours before officially embarking on the leadership race.

In this interview, Mr. Charest explained why he is trying to return to the federal political scene when he earns a good living in the private sector, responded to criticism from those who say he is not a true Conservative and defended tooth and nail his record as Premier of Quebec.

He maintains that he is the party’s unity candidate capable of rallying the various regions to a common cause with the aim of forming a majority Conservative government. He also argues that, if he succeeds in his bet, he will give Ottawa a “breath of fresh air” because he has an understanding of how the Canadian federation works – he is the founder of the Council of the Federation, which brings together all the provinces and territory and makes it possible to present common fronts against Ottawa – and he adds that respect for the jurisdictions of the provinces is fundamental.

The war in Ukraine “changes the game”, says Charest

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine highlighted Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and natural gas. Like Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom have announced a ban on imports of Russian oil, fossil fuels being used to finance the Kremlin’s war chest. But the majority of European countries, in particular Germany and Denmark, are unable to do without it completely.

“The war in Ukraine changes the situation in a very important way. The war brings to the fore a subject that governments do not deal with on a daily basis, namely the question of security of energy supply. This is not a subject that a government often deals with because it is an exceptional situation. We are living through the exceptional situation which brings us back to this very important question for the functioning of our economy,” analyzes Jean Charest.

One should not wait to be thirsty to build the well. It’s as simple as that. The duty, the responsibility of governments, is precisely to reflect on this. War is a cruel reminder of this reality for all of us. You have to plan, you have to foresee, you have to anticipate.

Jean Charest, candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party, in an interview with The Press

It is no coincidence that the former prime minister chose to launch his campaign in Calgary, Alberta, a province that produces oil and gas, and which is considered a bastion of the political formation that he aspires to to manage.

“There is a message in there. The message I want to give is that I am a candidate for the whole country. The unity of the country, for me, is fundamental. It is a condition for being able to succeed in Canada. In the west, people really feel like they’ve been left out. I want them to know that in my vision of the future of Canada, there is Alberta, there is Saskatchewan and that they must be at the table, where the decisions will be made. They will be part of a team that will define policies instead of being subjected to them. They will have their rightful place in a government that I would be called upon to form,” he said.

Case by case

Mr. Charest, who was Minister of the Environment in the Mulroney government and who led the Canadian delegation to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio in 1992, is also careful to point out that this does not does not mean that it is willing to blindly support new pipeline projects. “You have to go project by project,” he said, adding, however, that he had “always been favorable to the oil and gas sector”.

The last pipeline to have been built in Quebec, it was built under my government, it is the pipeline between Lévis and Montreal for Valero. It was done within the standards and it was done correctly. I know the subject.

Jean Charest, candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party, in an interview with The Press

“We will take the projects one by one, but from a perspective where it is the national interest that will dictate the decisions. And we will do them correctly, ”said Mr. Charest, whose government established the Carbon Exchange in Montreal in 2008.


Jean Charest, former Premier of Quebec, at the launch of the Carbon Exchange in Montreal, in May 2008

Mr. Charest stresses the importance of continuing the work aimed at decarbonizing the economy, but according to him, it must be done “in an economically intelligent way”. “That’s why I’m in Alberta. On these subjects, the party is quite capable of adopting avant-garde, intelligent and equitable policies. It is not true that he is part of the problem. He is part of the solution. Mr. Charest gave no example of these forward-thinking policies, saying he would do so during the leadership campaign.

“When we held the Rio Conference in 1992, we had the oil sector with us at the table. He was involved. He was not excluded. What I learned, and I learned it in Quebec as well, is that in all these projects, when we address energy and climate issues, everyone must participate in the development of policies. You can’t do it to the exclusion of one or the other. »

The environment, the economy, the management of public finances, Canada’s place in the world and national defence, among others, are themes that Mr. Charest intends to address during the race. “We will have a lot to say on these issues,” he said.

Third candidate in the race

Mr. Charest will become this Thursday the third candidate to officially start the race after MP Pierre Poilievre, last month, and MP Leslyn Lewis, who is trying his luck again. The mayor of Brampton, Patrick Brown, former Conservative MP in Ottawa and former leader of the Conservative Party of Ontario, should formalize his candidacy shortly.


MP Pierre Poilievre, candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party

Mr. Charest sees the attacks of Pierre Poilievre, who accuses him of not being a true conservative, as a “compliment”.

“I am very happy with the compliment he gives me. You have to take it like that. He will spend more time attacking my campaign than preparing his. I will not respond to his criticisms. But I just want to say I’m going in as a curator, period. My whole journey is a reflection of that,” he argued. He said that the sound management of public finances, the market economy, respect for provincial jurisdictions, respect for the rule of law and support for families and institutions, among others, were part of his political DNA. .

Why does Jean Charest want to return to politics?

“It’s an idea that has really been the common thread of my entire political career, and even my life, it’s the idea of ​​Canada. […] I want the Conservative Party to be a national party. I want to unite the party. I want to unite the country. The story of my life has been to be a unifier, to be the one to whom we turn so that we can work on a common vision, a common will, and to respect others and to to do with respect for those who do not necessarily share our choices. I have done this all my life. And that is why I am entering the race with the conviction that I will be able to unite the party and that I will be able to deliver a national government. »

His experience as Prime Minister, “a breath of fresh air” in Ottawa

“I think for Ottawa it would be a breath of fresh air to have a Prime Minister who understands how the federation works and who is able to make the federal system work effectively for the benefit of the federation. […] The country, day by day, it is the provinces that make it work. We just have to think about health and education. In the field of health, all the provinces make choices. The federal government must take this into account. He cannot just intervene on the right, on the left, over the moods to say: we should do this or do that with additional conditions. It does not work. The intentions may be good, but it doesn’t work. »

Does he intend to offer explanations on the management of his government, even if the Permanent Anti-Corruption Unit recently put an end to the Mâchurer investigation?

“I have a record of which I am very proud. Economically, it was very solid. We left Quebec’s economy in very good shape. Public finances have been left in good shape. On the social level, poverty has been reduced. I am very happy. There was the Canada-Europe agreement, the Quebec-France labor agreement. The first parity cabinet in Canada, I did. There was the Plan Nord and the development of natural resources. […] If people want to talk about my track record, great. It’s a subject I know well. It will be my pleasure to talk about it. But I also want to talk about what we want to prepare for the future. Do we want a leader who will unite us and make us win the elections, or vice versa? »

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