Party leaders came out swinging this morning, focusing on the economy — an issue at the heart of most Quebecers as the provincial economy struggles under a deficit exceeding $1 billion.

A recent CBC-Ekos poll suggested the economy and jobs are the most important election issues for Quebecers, and candidates are well aware.

The Liberals kicked off the morning by introducing their economic team, which includes heavyweights tapped from the financial sector. 

'It’s not an inevitability that taxes and tariffs will always increase'- François Legault, CAQ Leader

Jacques Daoust, running as a candidate in Verdun, was until recently the head of Investissement Québec.

Martin Coiteux, running in Nelligan, is an economist at the Bank of Canada and Carlos Leitao, the chief economist at Laurentian Bank, is the Liberal’s candidate in Robert Baldwin.

Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard also pledged to create 250,000 jobs over the next five years if his party is elected. That was the same promise made by his predecessor, Jean Charest, during the 2012 election campaign. 

CAQ promises tax cuts

Coalition Avenir Québec responded with an economic plan that promises to cut health and school taxes, and to put $1,000 back in the pockets of Quebec families.

“Many Quebecers believe it’s not possible to lower taxes. They’ve been promised this many times by the Liberals and the péquists and these two older parties have not delivered … The message that I want to send to Quebecers is, ‘Don’t give up’. It’s not an inevitability that taxes and tariffs will always increase,” CAQ Leader François Legault said.

The CAQ said it would save money by reducing tax credits and grants for businesses, which the party says are too generous.

The plan also focuses on freezing the number of public sector workers, by not replacing retiring baby boomers and transferring jobs from administration, to the front lines in services like health and education.

PQ focuses on anti-corruption agenda

'We are appealing to the intelligence of the electorate.'- Françoise David, Québec Solidaire co-spokesperso

The Parti Québécois was in Drummondville on Thursday morning to introduce one of its own star candidates — Daniel Lebel.

Lebel is the president of the Quebec order of engineers, a key candidate that could help bolster the PQ's anti-corruption image.

"In 18 months, corruption is on the decline and integrity has advanced," PQ Leader Pauline Marois said. 

"Mr. Lebel is a man of great competence, integrity, who's engaged in his region of Quebec."

Nicolas Marceau, the finance minister in Marois's last cabinet, responded to the Liberal and CAQ plans this afternoon, defending his budget and putting the blame for the province's deficit on the previous Liberal government. He called Couillard's plan "recycled," and lacking new ideas. 

"It's the same old recipe— to borrow more and to spend more," he said. 

He said the CAQ's plan has several holes and is based on inaccurate assumptions about the growth of the civil service. 

Quebec Solidaire appeals to voter intelligence

Social justice and the redistribution of wealth were the key themes in Québec Solidaire's economic plan. 

The party promised to create 50,000 new affordable housing units over the next five years and to lower the daily cost of public daycares.

"What's important is to vote with our heads ... We are appealing to the intelligence of the electorate," said co-spokesperson Françoise David.

David said her party would also work to escape an economy that's founded on petroleum