Former Quebec Premier Jean Charest said he was returning to the private sector after his lopsided defeat to MP Pierre Poilievre in the Conservative leadership election.
Charest, who campaigned as a more moderate conservative compared to the right-wing and populist Poilievre, congratulated his opponent on his victory in a video message Sunday, claiming to have carried out “a very energetic campaign”. Charest was not effusive in his praise.
As the two favorites traded blows throughout the months-long campaign, Charest said now was the time to unite around party choice in order to defeat their common enemy: Premier Justin Trudeau and the Liberals.
Charest, 64, has hinted that his time in electoral politics is over and that he will not seek a seat in the House of Commons now that he has lost the leadership.
But, Charest said, he will continue to be a card-carrying Conservative with a stake in the party’s success.
“I will continue to be a member of the party and I will continue to fight for the ideas that I put forward during this leadership race,” Charest said.
“Now is the time for us to prepare for the next election campaign and unite behind the new leader.”
In the end, it seems the Conservative Party is not that divided.
Poilievre picked up an easy victory, taking 68.15% of the available points in the first round. Charest finished a distant second and collected 16.07% of the points awarded in this preferential ballot election.
Under party leadership rules, the election is conducted on a points system that gives all constituencies equal weight.
Points are allocated proportionally based on the vote in each constituency, with each constituency able to cast 100 points (provided there are at least 100 accepted votes cast in that constituency).
“It was a landslide victory. I think it will be very worrying for the Liberals – they were counting on some kind of division, so it’s a good start for Pierre,” said Kory Teneycke, a former staffer at the former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen. Office of Harper and former campaign manager for Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
Poilievre won 70% of the popular vote
While the outcome is ultimately decided by the points, the raw popular vote numbers also reveal how Poilievre was the preferred candidate.
His skills as a retail politician and the clarity of his campaign message helped him beat Charest and the three other candidates running. Poilievre has focused his energies on Trudeau, who is despised by the party base, and his perceived failures in government.
As the party’s former finance critic, Poilievre has also lambasted the government’s handling of the federal deficit – which he blames for skyrocketing inflation and Bank of Canada interest rate hikes. that resulted.
He also sought support from millennials and other young people who have been shut out of the Canadian housing market due to skyrocketing home prices. Indeed, housing and affordability were central to his campaign message.
In the end, Poilievre won 70.70% of the popular vote – 295,283 of the 417,635 votes cast in that election.
“It’s a very decisive victory. It’s a victory for everyone who wanted freedom and hope,” said Saskatchewan Senator Denise Batters, a Poilievre supporter.
“We’re going to show Canadians that we’re a united party with a strong mandate and we’re going to show them that we’re talking about the kinds of things that matter to them.”
Charest won 48,651 votes or 11.65% of the popular vote, only slightly more than MP Leslyn Lewis won.
Lewis, the only overtly social-conservative candidate in that race, won 46,374 votes nationwide, or 11.10% of the vote, just 2,277 less than Charest, who was widely seen as the only capable candidate. to stop Poilievre’s march to the highest post.
The massive spread suggests that today’s Conservative party is quite different from the Progressive Conservative party led by Charest in the 1990s.
The merger in 2003 of the PC and Canadian Alliance parties gave birth to a modern conservative party that was resolutely right-wing.
Saturday’s results – and former minister Peter MacKay’s defeat in the 2020 leadership election to Erin O’Toole, who has run as a ‘true blue’ Tory – suggest that the moderate and centrist elements of the party are now quite marginal.
Nor was Charest able to replicate his past success in Quebec in convincing party members in that province in this leadership race.
Charest, who led this province for nine years after winning three elections, won only six of the province’s seats: Brossard–Saint-Lambert, Chicoutimi–Le Fjord, Louis-Hébert, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce –Westmount, Sherbrooke and Ville-Marie–Le Sud-Ouest–Île-des-Soeurs.
Poilievre, who relied on the organizational skills of Quebec Senator Leo Housakos to help him campaign in the province, won the other 72 seats, many by a wide margin.
His efforts to portray Charest as the man of yesterday out of step with the current conservative zeitgeist eventually resonated with the party base in Quebec and across the country.