MONTREAL - Jean Charest, who made the Quebec economy his priority during his nine years as premier, settled into a new career Thursday specializing in business law.
Charest, who last worked as a lawyer before being elected as a federal MP in 1984, has been made a partner at McCarthy Tetrault LLP.
He'll be rubbing shoulders with Daniel Johnson, another ex-Quebec premier who Charest succeeded as provincial Liberal leader in 1998. The law firm's chairman and chief executive is Marc-Andre Blanchard, a former president of the provincial Liberal party.
"He is in the office today (Thursday) as we speak," Blanchard said when asked if Charest was already on the job.
"He's very enthusiastic in meeting the people, in meeting clients and he's very geared toward being a strategic and trusted adviser to our clients."
Charest wasn't giving interviews Thursday, saying in a statement he is joining the prestigious law firm "with great enthusiasm."
Recalling that it was the first Canadian law firm to establish a national presence, Charest said its history is linked to the development of Quebec and Canada.
"My association with such a prominent business law firm is an opportunity for me to contribute to the business and economic development of Quebec and Canada," said Charest, who was scheduled to address Toronto's Albany Club on Thursday evening in his first public appearance since losing the Quebec election.
Charest was Quebec premier between 2003 and his election defeat last September.
McCarthy Tetrault plans to draw on Charest's leadership and negotiating skills to provide advice on initiatives by it and its clients in Canada and internationally, with a focus on the United States, Europe, China, India, Africa and Latin America.
Blanchard said Charest is a unique resource because of his nearly 30 years of political experience, the scope of the agreements he has negotiated, the challenges he has faced and the scale of the projects he has developed.
"Mr. Charest is certainly the most accomplished Canadian political leader of his generation so for our clients it's a pretty unique proposition," said Blanchard, who also had federal cabinet minister John Manley on his firm's team for five years.
Blanchard said Charest won't just be a prominent name on the roster.
"For him, it's a new career and he really wants to make sure that he's really part of the servicing team to our clients," he said, adding Charest's talents will help clients navigate increasingly complex waters.
While the two men are good friends, Blanchard said, "at the end of the day it is about what Mr. Charest can bring to our clients in terms of strategic advice."
Charest was admitted to the Quebec Bar in 1981, three years before he first became a Progressive Conservative MP under Brian Mulroney.
Kim Thomassin, the law firm's managing partner for Quebec, said the former premier is a catch.
"He had many options," Thomassin said. "The fact that he wanted to work with us as much as we wanted to work with him is a testament to the leading position of our firm and our ability to attract talent who will provide insights and truly add value for our clients."
During his political career, Charest was Canada's youngest cabinet minister when he was named minister of state for youth in 1986 at age 28.
He also served as the Mulroney government's minister of state for fitness and amateur sports in 1988 — a position he had to quit two years later after speaking to a judge hearing a case involving the Canadian Track and Field Association. He returned to cabinet in 1991 as environment minister.
Charest also served as industry minister and deputy prime minister.
As Quebec premier, he cited as his major accomplishments the creation of the Council of the Federation and his Plan Nord northern development plan, which is being re-examined by the Parti Quebecois government.
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