Born on June 24, 1958, in Sherbrooke, Quebec, he was elected member of Parliament for Sherbrooke in 1984 and was appointed to Brian Mulroney's cabinet as secretary of state in 1984. In 1991 he became Environment minister. He ran for the leadership of the Conservative Party after Mulroney's retirement but lost to Defence Minister Kim Campbell. After the 1993 election, in which all but two of the Conservative Party's candidates lost their seats, Charest was elected party leader.
In the 1997 election the Conservative Party received 19% of the vote, but won only 20 seats out of 301. During the campaign, Bloc Quebecois candidate Suzanne Tremblay at a rally in the town of Iles-de-la-Madeleine said "We must try to remember who is the real Jean Charest. First of all, it's John Charest. It's true. His first name is John, it's on his baptismal certificate. It's not Jean, he became Jean for us. But it's not the case. His real name is John. We should not forget that." An embarassed Bloc Quebecois leader, Gilles Duceppe had to distance himself from these remarks, reminding Ms. Tremblay that his mother was Helene Rowley, and his own grandfather had been born in Great Britain.
A year later Charest left federal politics to become leader of the Quebec Liberal Party. In the provincial election later that year, the Liberals received more votes than the incumbent Parti Québécois, but because the Liberal vote was concentrated in fewer ridings, the PQ won enough seats to form a majority government. In 2003 Charest was elected premier of Quebec, ending nine years of rule by the PQ.
|List of Quebec premiers||Succeeded by: Charest is the current premier of Quebec.|