Montreal

ADQ Leader Mario Dumont takes responsibility for party's performance

Mario Dumont, his Action Démocratique du Québec trailing badly in the polls, apologized to voters on Sunday for his party not blossoming into the top-notch Opposition they had been seeking.

Mario Dumont, his Action Démocratique du Québec trailing badly in the polls, apologized to voters on Sunday for his party not blossoming into the top-notch Opposition they had been seeking.

A contrite Dumont acknowledged the buck stops with him as he assumed blame for the party's woes before asking Quebecers to give him a second chance when they vote on Dec. 8.

"Is it possible that I've made mistakes?" Dumont asked about 1,000 ADQ supporters in his Rivière-du-Loup riding. "The answer is yes.

"Is it possible that I didn't know right away or always know how to best use the resources I had with 41 members of the legislature because of bad habits that had developed. It's possible.

"I assume full responsibility for things that didn't work out and for any disappointment Quebecers have felt."

The ADQ surprised most pundits in 2007 when it made a major breakthrough by winning 41 of the province's 125 ridings and relegating the Parti Québécois to third-party status in the legislature.

The catalyst for the strong performance was Dumont's ability to tap into Quebecers' concerns about the province being too accommodating to immigrants.

Since then, Dumont's fortunes have sunk amid recriminations the party is nothing other than a one-man show with few original ideas.

Most Quebecers would likely have trouble naming many other ADQ members of the legislature, with only finance critic Gilles Taillon having any kind of relatively high profile.

The ADQ's problems took on added significance just before the election was called when two of its sitting members switched to the Liberals and laced into Dumont for not caring about his own caucus.

Dumont's mea culpa came a day after publication of an opinion poll which suggested the ADQ had the support of only 15 per cent of Quebecers, compared with 42 per cent for the Liberals and 31 per cent for the PQ.

Perhaps just as disturbing for Dumont was that only 12 per cent of those polled thought he would make the best premier. That left him trailing incumbent Jean Charest, who stood at 43 per cent, and PQ Leader Pauline Marois, who was at 29 per cent.

PQ promises MDs for everyone

Elsewhere on the campaign trail Sunday, Marois promised that every Quebecer would have access to a family doctor within five years.

Citing Statistics Canada, the PQ said 26.5 per cent of Quebecers over the age of 12 don't have a family doctor.

With one eye on that and the other on a recent poll suggesting Quebecers were more preoccupied with health issues than the economy, Marois announced a PQ government would invest $135 million over three years to strengthen a network of family doctors across the province.

That, she said, would give overburdened hospitals some breathing room.

"If Quebecers are followed efficiently, not as many people will end up in the emergency ward or waiting for an operation," she said in Sherbrooke.

Charest, meanwhile, was taking some stick for not having presented his party's platform as of Day 12 of the campaign.

The premier refused to say when it will be released, but said the overall costs will be made public before Nov. 25,  the day he, Marois and Dumont square off in their televised debate.

"It will all happen in due time," Charest said in Val-d'Or in western Quebec.

"It will be released during the campaign. I don't want to give you everything the same day."

Charest's campaigning on Sunday was somewhat overshadowed by news that the Canadian Grand Prix has been officially dropped from the Formula One schedule in 2009, meaning Montreal will lose out on an estimated $100 million in revenues and economic spinoffs.