Charest hedges on election call

Job creation and the economy will be major issues in Quebec's next election, but a spring vote is not in the works yet.
Jean Charest is playing down rumours of a spring election in Quebec. (CBC)

Job creation and the economy will be major issues in Quebec's next election, but Premier Jean Charest is downplaying rumours that a vote could be held as early as the spring.

Ahead of a Liberal caucus weekend meeting in Victoriaville, Charest told reporters election speculation is only serving his adversaries, the Parti Québécois and Coalition Avenir Québec.

While most Liberals say they are campaign-ready, Charest said he won't be pushed.

"We'll go into an election campaign when we believe it is in the interest of Quebecers."

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The timing of an election is on the two-day Liberal caucus meeting agenda.

MNAs, especially in some rural ridings, are nervous about facing voters right away, given recent polls that suggest Liberal support among francophones has hit rock bottom.

Charest has rejected the idea of fixed-date elections, arguing that it leads to very long electoral campaigns.

Liberals are focused on the spring budget for now, said finance minister Raymond Bachand.

"I think the people want control over public finances, control over the debt, and also starting to create wealth."

The provincial budget will be tabled in the second half of March.

The Liberal government is more than midway through its five-year term.

With files from Tim Duboyce