Charest shares ­political savvy with Galt ­students

Matthew McCully
Staff Writer

Jean Charest told a group of Alexander Galt high school students his earliest motivation to enter politics came from his desire to help people. The former Quebec Premier Jean Charest stopped by the high school Friday to speak with students in model parliament about his career in politics. “I started in student council,” he told the students, although rallying the masses didn’t always come naturally. “I was so shy they had to push me on stage to speak,” Charest admitted. He eventually won the election, which would forever shape his life. “I enjoyed the experience of being able to change things,” he said. Charest, born in Sherbrooke, began his career as a lawyer. Being from a middle class family, he ended up seeing a demographic of society that struggled a lot, something he wasn’t used to. “These were people who had difficult lives; mostly men between 15-25. A lot of them couldn’t read or write,” he said, surprised. “I liked to help my clients, not just be their lawyer,” Charest told the students. He sometimes brought his work home with him. One morning as his wife Michèle went downstairs to leave for work, she found a gentlemen asleep on the couch. “Who is that,” she asked. Charest explained that it was a client who needed a place to sleep. “What did he do?” “He stole a safe,” Charest replied. A colleague of Charest’s gave him some sound advice. “If you want to be a social worker to your clients, you deprive them of the services of the lawyer.” Charest decided to become a change maker and pursue politics. He was 26 at the time. “I came in with a wave,” Charest explained. He described the ups and downs of his political career for the Galt students, pulling no punches. See full story in the Monday, April 16th edition of The Record.