08/07/2014 01:20 EDT | Updated 08/07/2014 01:59 EDT

Jean Charest On Running For Federal Tories: 'Never Say Never'


Jean Charest won't rule out returning to politics and running for the federal Conservatives someday.

But, then again, the former Quebec premier suggested Thursday such a move would be unlikely.

Charest, who is currently in Hong Kong on business for law firm McCarthy Tétrault, gave an interview by phone to CBC Daybreak's Mike Finnerty about the free trade negotiations between Canada and the European Union.

Finnerty asked Charest, who was defeated by former Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois in 2012, if he might jump back into politics.

"No, I don't…Well, you never say never, but I have no regrets," he said. "I feel I did the best I could in the time I was there. It was a great experience. I had 28 years."

"Would you run for the federal Conservatives again?" Finnerty asked.

"Nah, I'm not. No. The answer is… again, you never say never because you don't know what life will put in front of you, but I'm very happy doing what I’m doing," he said.

Listen to the audio below:

Charest, 56, was first elected as a Progressive Conservative MP in 1984 and became the youngest cabinet minister in Canadian history when he was named minister of state for youth by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in 1986. He was just 28 at the time.

He ran for the leadership of the PC Party in 1993, finishing second to Kim Campbell. He was one of only two Tory candidates to win a seat in the 1993 election and became leader of the now-defunct party two years later.

Charest led the Tories in the 1997 election, winning 20 seats. He then jumped to provincial politics, becoming leader of the Quebec Liberals in 1998. Though Quebec Liberals lost the provincial election that year, Charest captured a majority government in 2003 in what was considered a significant victory for federalists.

Charest and Prime Minister Stephen Harper initially had a strong working relationship but it reportedly strained over the years.

In the dying days of the 2007 provincial election, Harper controversially ramped up federal transfers that netted the province $2.3 billion. Charest flipped the cash into $700 million of income-tax cuts — a popular enough move with voters to win him a minority government but one that left Harper accused of short-changing other provinces and trying to buy Quebec votes.

During the 2008 federal election, Charest criticized Ottawa's unpopular cuts to culture programs in the province. Former Harper adviser Tom Flanagan called Charest's move a "kick in the teeth."

Harper opted not to lend a helping hand as Charest was facing defeat in 2012.

Last summer, amid rumours Harper could resign because of the Senate expense scandal, The Huffington Post Canada asked readers (in an unscientific survey) to help select a potential successor from inside and outside the PM's cabinet.

Former Conservative minister Jim Prentice was picked as the outsider most likely to replace Harper as Tory leader, but Charest finished a respectable second. Now-Justice Minsiter Peter MacKay was pegged as the front-runner from within Harper’s inner circle.

Could Charest make a run for the top job some day? Never say never.

With files from The Canadian Press

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