Liberal reforms took 'courage,' Couillard says as Quebec election gets underway
Voters will head to the polls on Oct. 1 after 39 days of campaigning. Here's what the parties said on Day 1
As he began his quest for a second term, Quebec Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard portrayed his party as a trusted economic steward that made difficult, but necessary decisions to get the province back on track.
"In the future, I'm sure that people will look at these [past] four years as a very critical period of change in Quebec, that took a lot of courage to achieve," Couillard said Thursday in defending his government's track record.
The Liberals introduced a series of controversial cuts to health care and education in the first years of its mandate before boosting spending ahead of the election.
Couillard, fighting dwindling popularity, told Quebecers he will put forward proposals that will make their lives "better and simpler."
"Because life can be quite complicated in 2018 for young families and seniors and workers, and of course for our entrepreneurs as well," he said.
The Quebec election officially got underway Thursday morning after Couillard met with Lt.-Gov. Michel Doyon to dissolve the provincial legislature and issue an election writ.
Voters will head to the polls on Oct. 1 after a 39-day campaign, the longest possible under Quebec electoral law.
The Liberals are hoping the lengthy campaign will expose flaws in the proposals of François Legault's Coalition Avenir Québec, which has been leading in the polls for months.
Time is now, Legault says
Despite a strong economy and unemployment numbers hovering near historic lows, polls suggest voters are anxious for change.
The Liberals have been in power in Quebec since 2003, with the exception of an 18-month stint by the Parti Québécois.
Legault, a former PQ cabinet minister, said he wants to set aside the debate over Quebec independence and "work together."
The CAQ is a right-leaning party that pledges to cut taxes, reduce the number of immigrants and allow private sector health-care services.
"We finally have the opportunity of turning the page on 13 years of Liberal government. What is at stake in this election is which party can replace Mr. Couillard's government," Legault said at a news conference.
"What the CAQ is proposing is positive change."
Watch party leaders make their case to voters on Day 1
PQ warns of CAQ austerity measures
The Parti Québécois has promised not to hold a referendum on sovereignty in the first mandate of a PQ government, taking sovereignty off the table for the first election in decades.
Leader Jean-François Lisée, whose party is polling in third behind the CAQ and the Liberals, took aim at both Legault and Couillard in his remarks, arguing their policies fail to protect the province's most vulnerable.
"The CAQ says they will cut taxes without reducing services. Do not believe them. If you didn't like Liberal austerity, you will hate CAQ austerity," he said.
A PQ government, he said, would restore funding to social programs trimmed back by the Liberals.
Manon Massé, a spokesperson for the left-wing party Québec Solidaire, put an emphasis on policies that would counter climate change on the first day of the campaign.
"It is not by building more highways or taking more oil out of our soils that we are going to save the planet," said Massé, whose party advocates nationalizing natural resources, as well as free education and daycare.
At dissolution, the Liberals had 68 seats, the PQ 28, the CAQ 21 and Québec Solidaire three, along with five independents.
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