Charest attacks ADQ and parries too
On his first campaign visit to the Outaouais, Liberal Leader Jean Charest defended comments about health care made by one of his own candidates and repeatedly attacked the Action Démocratique du Québec.
Charest, the first Quebec party leader to visit the region, arrived Monday evening and attended several events, including a Tuesday morning funding announcement for Rapibus, a regional transit project involving fast buses in dedicated lanes.
Part of his time was spent trying to defend the controversial comments of Liberal candidate Charlotte L'Écuyer, who is running in Pontiac, a riding that includes Gatineau's Aylmer sector, where she won a seat in 2003.
L'Écuyer said several days ago that not all Quebecers need a family doctor and she herself does not have one.
Gatineau is a region where thousands of people do not have a family doctor, and the Liberal party has pushed improved access to health care as its main campaign promise.
But Charest defended his candidate, insisting that what L'Écuyer meant to say was that each person must have access to a family doctor.
He said that if elected, the Liberal party will help provide 1,500 more doctors and 2,000 more nurses, boost funding for the province's emergency wards and ensure family physicians are easier to find for "families with children, older people and people who are vulnerable."
Attack on the ADQ
Charest did not spend all his time on the defensive — at a Monday night Liberal rally, he also attacked ADQ Leader Mario Dumont and his party, which has been gaining in the polls.
Charest barely mentioned the party's longtime main rival, the Parti Québécois, even though PQ supporters from the Quebec Federation of Labour protested outside the rally, delaying its start.
Charest accused Dumont of having a hidden agenda.
He challenged Dumont to be specific about the ADQ's fiscally conservative policies.
"Let him give you the list of everything he's going to get rid of," he told party supporters.
Charest also said ADQ candidate Jean-François Plante, who is running in the riding of Deux Montagnes, should pull out of the election for trivializing the École Polytechnique massacre on his website.
In an internet podcast that aired in December, Plante said he refused to wear a white ribbon to commemorate the tragedy, but he later apologized.
Parti Québécois Leader André Boisclair echoed Charest's condemnation of Plante's attitude towards the Montreal massacre.
"I knew some people that were hit by the events at Polytechnique, and let me tell you, I was shocked to hear these kinds of words," Boisclair said Tuesday, adding that the comments are further example of the ADQ's inexperience.
"There's no team behind Mario Dumont. He's alone. His candidates have no experience in politics. Most of them have no experience in government."
Charest also accused ADQ president Gilles Taillon of planning to shut down the province's employment and welfare agency, Emploi Québec, and accused the party of parachuting into Gatineau a candidate who does not live in the riding, Martin Otis.