Quebec political leaders ready themselves for expected election call

Opposition leaders are putting on their pre-electoral game faces


MONTREAL – Quebec opposition leaders put on their pre-electoral game faces Tuesday, hours before a widely anticipated election call that Premier Pauline Marois hopes will bring her a majority mandate.

Riding high in the polls, the Parti Quebecois leader is expected to call a snap election Wednesday that would send the province to the ballot box on April 7.

Her main opponents already looked like they were on the campaign trail Tuesday, criticizing the PQ’s record and highlighting the ideas they hope to sell to voters over the coming weeks.

Rookie Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard said he felt like he was playing hockey and the playoffs were about to begin.

“We’re only hours away from the election call — it appears obvious,” Couillard, the national assembly’s Opposition leader, told reporters in Quebec City.

“I’m putting together my attacking lines. My centres and wingers … have already been identified.”

Couillard, who replaced former premier Jean Charest as Liberal leader last year, said his party, unlike the governing PQ, will focus on what he calls the true concerns of Quebecers: education, health, jobs and the economy.

He reiterated his dislike for the Marois government’s controversial-yet-popular secularism charter, describing it as a plan that divides Quebecers.

Polls, however, have suggested the values charter has been a boon to Marois’ minority government, which appears to be within reach of a majority mandate.

The PQ minority-accommodation project would ban public employees from wearing ostentatious religious symbols, like the Muslim veil, at work.

Supporters of the plan call it a tool to limit gender discrimination and to shield the province from what has been described as encroaching fundamentalism. Opponents call it a political ploy to shift attention away from more pressing matters, like the economy.

Third-party leader Francois Legault accused Marois on Tuesday of wanting to run her whole campaign on the secularism charter alone.

The leader of the right-of-centre Coalition party said he supports a watered-down version of the PQ plan, one that would only place the restrictions on public workers in authority positions, such as teachers, police officer and judges.

However, Legault said the government should be primarily focused on kick-starting the Quebec economy.

“Right now, Quebec is living beyond its means,” Legault told reporters.

“Therefore we’re in a situation that if we don’t change our direction … we will hit the wall.”

The PQ has made a series of recent annoucements with hope of dulling such attacks from opponents, who have repeatedly accused the party of mismanaging the economy.

The Marois government, which came to power in September 2012, has made multimillion-dollar public investments, including cash for a new cement plant in the Gaspe region and an oil-exploration project on Anticosti Island.

Last month, Marois’ team also presented what it called a “responsible” budget filled with figures it says point to the PQ’s economic accomplishments.

The document, which would not go to vote if an election is called this week, projected a $1.75-billion shortfall in 2014-15, a prediction that backed away from an earlier PQ promise to balance the books in 2013-14.

The party’s zero-deficit target has now been put off until 2015-16, a change that prompted Fitch Ratings to downgrade Quebec’s outlook in December to negative from stable.

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Quebec political leaders ready themselves for expected election call

  1. The PQ is polling good and the 2 opposition parties start behind. But if they think this through, the last thing they (opposition parties) would want is to win the elections, a minority or a majority.

    The economic predictions they (the PQ) did in order to balance the books in 15-16 are flawed, the figures for growth in health care expenses are impossible to attain with an aging population. On top of this, the Premier has been going around promising billions all over the place, billions they don’t have. Finally, the mess called the charter will end up in the courts and they will lose.

    Any opposition taking over in April will have to play the part of the responsible adult after the drunk adult made a mess of everything. The PQ could have the opportunity to hide behind the bleachers saying ”It was all good when we left; remember our numbers…”

    I hope she gets a majority. That will not be good for the province but it might just awake enough people so they realize that anyone telling you you can have it all + more without making some sacrifices or focusing on economic development is a fraud.

    • “it might just awake enough people so they realize that anyone telling you you can have it all + more without making some sacrifices ”

      So true, but after 300 years of the Catholic Church then 40 of the PQ telling the Québecois they are a “special race”, I’m not holding my breath for them to wake up.

  2. “might just wake enough people”… really now hasn’t that been hoped for with each transition? If you were born in ’58, then you’d recall that each alternating government since you could vote has lasted 9 years and started out with the best of intentions, probably the most serious of which was Charest’s commitment to reform in the late 90s which was stymied when he finally won. The Liberals have started out better, but have eventually failed to deliver; but perhaps the corruption inquiries will result in a broader public financing competence for whoever wins. I do give credit to the PQ for recognising the tragic error of their 1979 investment in the asbestos sector and withdrawing Quebec’s objections to measures to shut it down. They could have avoided the charter mess by taking measures to disbar any pharmacist caught denying contraceptives, physicians refusing abortions, teachers refusing sex ed curriculums and any public servant found proselytising in the name of religion instead of focusing on appearances!