Quebec election campaign kicks off for April 7 vote
Party leaders square off on sovereignty, economy as 33-day election campaign gets underway
Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois has officially set April 7 as the date for a Quebec election.
She climbed onto her campaign bus in Quebec City just after 10:30 a.m. ET following a meeting with Lt.-Gov. Pierre Duchesne to dissolve the provincial legislature and issue an election writ.
Eighteen months after the Parti Québécois won a minority government, provincial parties launched their 33-day campaign on Wednesday.
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Marois said her government has made great strides to improve the province, and still has more to do.
I am a determined premier, and a determined woman.- Pauline Marois, Parti Québécois leader
"We have a plan, and a team to realize this plan," Marois said, standing in front of her party’s cabinet on the steps of the cabinet building.
"Unfortunately the Liberals and the CAQ [Coalition Avenir Québec] ... only have one goal, and that's to block our government ... We tabled a responsible budget, but they decided to oppose it before even reading it,” Marois said.
Marois hit the campaign trail immediately after the national assembly was dissolved, heading to a scheduled stop in Portneuf at noon, with an overnight stay in Trois-Rivières.
"I am a determined premier, and a determined woman," Marois said, while boarding her campaign bus.
The Quebec Liberal Party is expected to host a rally in Old Quebec City this evening.
The Coalition Avenir Québec and Québec Solidaire have not yet revealed any planned activities.
PQ blamed for failing economy
The CAQ, Liberals and Québec Solidaire all kicked off their campaigns on Wednesday.
The parties squared off on a number of issues, but all agreed on one thing — the PQ government's failure to address the struggling economy.
Coalition AvenirQuébec Leader FrançoisLegault said Marois has been using the charter to distract Quebecers from the province's financial issues.
[Marois has] been working to create an election that will focus on one issue, her famous charter of values- François Legault, CAQ Leader
Legault said if Marois truly wanted a secular charter, she would have been willing to negotiate something that all parties could agree on.
Instead, Legault said, the PQ has been using the charter for its own political gain.
"If anyone doubts why Marois is launching an election, she’s been working to create an election that will focus on one issue, her famous charter of values," Legault said.
Quebec's independence was another hot button issue on Wednesday. Quebec Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard condemned Marois for creating a financial "fiasco," blaming the PQ government for the death of Plan Nord.
Marois has promised to produce a white paper on Quebec's sovereignty.
Couillard said the PQ government's separatist agenda was dividing Quebecers.
"It’s irresponsible to deliberately introduce division between the communities of Quebec. I cannot accept that. We will correct that. We will work hard to make it so that all Quebecers feel united under the umbrella which is our Quebec identity."
The PQ hasn’t committed to a referendum and has maintained that when there’s enough support for another one, they will pursue it.
“I am a sovereigntist,” Marois said in February. “When the people elect me and my government, I have the possibility [to seek] sovereignty.”
Quebec Solidaire co-spokeswoman Françoise David highlighted her party's pro-separatist stance at the kickoff to her party's campaign in Montreal.
"We will be talking about sovereignty. A country of Quebec should be founded on common values — equal rights for men and women, secularism, but that's not all. There is also the environment, social justice, democracy — we will discussing all of this over the next few weeks."
Majority could be within PQ's reach
Buoyed by popular support surrounding the secular charter, analysts say Marois’s PartiQuébécois could be in majority government territory by the time Quebecers go to the polls next month.
But it’s still a gamble, one Marois has pointed to as necessary after the opposition parties publicly indicated they wouldn’t support the recently tabled provincial budget.
At issue will be the obvious hot-button topics that have dominated the political headlines since the PQ formed a minority government in the fall of 2012: identity, the economy and health care.
The PQ has been rising in the polls since it tabled the controversial secular charter legislation last year.
The bill, which would ban the wearing of overt religious symbols by public-sector workers, is popular outside urban centres such as Montreal or Quebec City. However, it has been met with fierce opposition by some school boards, health-care institutions and municipalities.
Corruption inquiry on hiatus
The Charbonneau commission looking into corruption in the province's construction industry announced it would be suspending proceedings at the end of this week for the election campaign.
Proceedings are scheduled to resume the day after the election, on April 8.