The Quebec Liberals would invest more than a billion dollars to boost the province's manufacturing sector and turn research into revenue-generating results, party leader Jean Charest announced Monday as he kicked off the fourth week of the election campaign.

Charest's latest promise, delivered south of Montreal at the headquarters of a company that makes industrial equipment, would aim to grow what he called Quebec's "manufacturing champions," particularly among businesses below $50 million a year in sales.

"We want to target businesses of this size to bring them to $200 million a year," Charest said.

"When a company gets to $200 million a year in revenues, typically it's more invested in export markets. Secondly, it does more research and development, and thirdly, it has more benefits for the rest of the economy, for services, subcontracting, etc."

Charest said a Liberal government would:

  • Spend $50 million a year over the next five years on specialized teams to help small and medium businesses grow
  • Spend $25 million a year over the next five years to help commercialize research into green technologies
  • Create a fund of $2 billion, with half contributed by the private sector, to "bring together our best researchers with our most dynamic companies to support commercialization of new products for global markets."

The Liberal leader said his government would especially focus its efforts on emerging economies like Brazil, India, China and Russia, because developing economies have been responsible for 85 per cent of global economic growth over the last few years. Export markets hold the key to growth for Quebec businesses, Charest said.

It was Charest's only campaign stop of the day, after which he returned to Montreal to prepare for his 9 p.m. televised debate with Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois.

Marois idle

Marois did not make major campaign stops on Monday, as she was preparing for the evening's debate. Instead, the PQ sent four Montreal-area candidates for a mini-tour of the Laurentians region to meet and greet voters at a St. Hubert restaurant, a brewery and a restaurant-bar in Saint-Jérôme.

Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault isn't debating again until Tuesday, when he'll face Charest one-on-one. On Monday, he said he was relieved Sunday night's leaders' debate – his first – was over.