Quebec health care bigwigs butt heads in election campaign

Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois repeats her pledge to abolish the province's health tax, while Quécec Solidaire co-spokesperson Amir Khadir debates high-profile candidates from the other major parties on health care.
The four major Quebec parties each have high-profile physicians running for them. From left: CAQ candidate Gaétan Barrette (ex-president of the Quebec federation of medical specialists), Quebec Solidaire co-spokesperson Amir Khadir and Liberal Health Minister Yves Bolduc. The fourth, not pictured, is PQ candidate Réjean Hébert, former dean of medicine at Sherbooke University. (Canadian Press)

Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois repeated her pledge on Friday to abolish the province's health tax if she's elected premier, saying the current $200-a-year levy unfairly hits middle-class families.

Meanwhile, Quécec Solidaire co-spokesperson and physician Amir Khadir went head-to-head with high-profile doctors from the three other major parties in an early-afternoon debate about health care.

Marois said the PQ would axe the health levy in favour of a tax hike on people earning more than $130,000 a year, an idea she first floated earlier this year.

Those earning $130,000 to $250,000 a year would see their top provincial tax bracket rise to 28 per cent from 24 per cent, while Quebecers making more than that would have their marginal rate rise to 31 per cent.

CAQ's new ad

The Coalition Avenir Québec launched its new political ad on Friday. Click here to watch it.

Currently, a single adult with no kids earning more than about $14,500 has to pay the $200-a-year tax, while a two-parent family with two or more kids and a household income upward of roughly $30,000 would pay $400 — once for each adult.

The tax raised about $1 billion for the provincial treasury last year, but the PQ has been campaigning against it since earlier this year, calling it "utterly unjust to tax all families without any regard to income" in an advertising campaign launched in March.

Québec Solidaire is also promising to cancel the health tax, which was originally set at $25 a year when it was brought in by the Liberal provincial government in 2010. The party outlined that measure as part of the fiscal platform it announced Friday.

Later in the day, Québec Solidaire co-spokesperson Amir Khadir, a physician and the party's only MNA, debated doctor and incumbent Health Minister Yves Bolduc, former University of Sherbrooke dean of medicine and Parti Québécois star candidate Réjean Hébert, and Coalition Avenir Québec health-care critic Gaétan Barrette, the former head of Quebec's federation of medical specialists.

CAQ unleashes TV ad

The CAQ also unveiled its new TV ad Friday morning, highlighting the party's focus on the province's series of corruption revelations.

The new CAQ ad has star candidate and anti-corruption crusader Jacques Duchesneau, second from left, in a prominent position alongside leader François Legault, front right. (Coalition Avenir Québec)

The first of them features party leader François Legault standing in front of some of his electoral team, with former provincial anti-collusion squad chief Jacques Duchesneau, the high-profile candidate the party announced to much fanfare over the weekend, in a prominent position to Legault's right. 

"Everyone in Quebec is aware of the corruption in construction, in government and the financing of the old political parties," Legault says. "Enough!"

The ad then cuts to a head shot of Duchesneau saying, "We need to clean up political party financing," followed by solo shots of several of the party's other big-name candidates denouncing the Liberals and PQ.