It seems like Carleton, Ont., MP Pierre Poilievre and former Quebec Premier Jean Charest are set to face off for the Conservative leadership.
The Canadian Press said they are "similar in more ways than one. Both are excellent debaters in both official languages. Both have great political instincts that led them to get elected at a very young age. And both might be running against each other in hopes of becoming one day prime minister of Canada."
Conservative strategists weighed in on the upcoming battle between the two figures for the leadership.
“I don’t think it would be exaggerated to say it would be metal on metal,” said Marc-André Leclerc, principal at Maple Leaf Strategies and former Conservative strategist, borrowing an expression from former Liberal cabinet minister Jean Lapierre to show that sparks would fly.
“Both are good debaters and have mastered the art of the clip. So I think that even if they are very different, they are also very similar and that’s what is going to make this race even more interesting. (…) On each side, they should not be underestimated.”
Although Charest is not officially running as of yet, he remains interested. Earlier this week, four MPs and one Senator came out in a letter published in the National Post also called on him to unite the country and restore its reputation on the world stage.
It seems the two figures are already at odds. Byrne, who is working on Poilievre’s campaign, described Charest as a “Liberal who campaigned against Stephen Harper” as a Quebec premier. “He supported the long gun registry, raised taxes, brought in a carbon tax and worked for Huawei while the Chinese (government) detained kidnapped Canadians.”
“Charest is indeed a real Conservative,” responded Leo Power, former director of the Conservative Fund Canada and one of the signatories of this week’s letter in support of a Charest candidacy. “The comments from Jenni Byrne were insolent and petulant and that type of nasty discourse is unhelpful on so many fronts,” he added.
Charest left the Progressive Conservatives some 20 years ago to join the Quebec Liberals to oppose separatists from governing. However, he lost relection as Premier after a major student crisis that cost him his job.
Yan Plante, vice-president of TACT Conseil and former strategist, says Charest will campaign on the fact that “Canada has never been so divided since the referendum in 1995” and that he has “experience in saving the country” and that “he will do it again.”
“He’ll want to stress that Canada is not in a good place and that it takes someone with grey hair, someone with experience and with finesse to make sure the country will bounce back.”
Power thinks Charest would “present as a serious leader to a significant mass of people” to the general electorate “seeking an alternative to the madness of Liberal excessive spending and excessive taxation, the war on energy producing provinces, policy overreach, weakness on the global stage.”
Not all agree. “Jean Charest has a very sordid past and a very questionable legacy and he will not be able to run from it,” said Senator Leo Housakos. “And the Conservative Party should not be saddled with defending that legacy. It would be very unfair, unfair to the party and unfair to the country.”