It’s official: Quebecers are going to the polls September 4

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

And, they're off.

After weeks of speculation, Quebec Premier Jean Charest has officially pulled the plug on his majority government today, sending Quebecers to the polls in early September.

According to reports,  Charest met with the province's lieutenant-governor to dissolve the National Assembly this morning and launched his fifth election campaign as the head of the Quebec Liberals.

"The street has made lots of noise," Charest told a news conference at the Quebec City airport.

"Now the silent majority will express itself... The choice is clear — between stability and instability."

The early election call is a gamble for Charest who is seeking his fourth mandate since coming to power in 2003.

The latest poll, published in Wednesday's Journal de Montreal, shows Pauline Marois' Parti Quebecois and Charest's Liberals running neck and neck.  The PQ had the support of 33 per cent of respondents, while 31 per cent said they would be backing Charest's party.

"If there was an election today, it would be a minority PQ government," Leger Marketing president Jean-Marc Leger told the newspaper.

[ Related: PQ leader swipes at Charest in advance of election call ]

In a press conference Wednesday morning, Marois told reporters that integrity and ethics will be a key issue in the campaign as she tries to oust a "tired and corrupt government."

"We will put an end to the influence of money in politics," she said in Quebec City, referring to the alleged widespread corruption in the province's construction industry.

"As opposed to the Liberals, we have chosen honesty."

Marois also took aim at Ottawa, saying the federal government stands firmly in the way of Quebec's values and economic interests.

"We want Quebec to stand tall against the Canada of Stephen Harper ... Canada has become a risk for Quebec."

[ Related: Ready for a referendum? Parti Quebecois will push separatist agenda if they recapture Quebec ]

Trailing well behind the two historically dominant parties with 21 per cent support is the upstart Coalition Avenir du Quebec led by former PQ minister François Legault.

Legault, the founder of Air Transat, has said that he wants the province to put the "independence issue" on hold for the next 10 years and focus on the more pressing economic and social hurdles that Quebec is facing.

Quebec's other three parties, although small, will be watched closely during the campaign because they could potentially hold the balance of power in a minority legislature.

The left-leaning Quebec Solidaire finished with 7 per cent in the Leger poll,  while the Green Party and the separatist Option Nationale earned 4 per cent and 2 per cent respectively.

The poll says that a trio of issues are top of mind for Quebecers: better access to the healthcare system, lower taxes and the corruption in the construction industry.

Current standings in National Assembly (125 seats total):

  • Liberal: 64
  • Parti Québécois: 47
  • Coalition Avenir Québec: 9
  • Québec Solidaire: 1
  • Option Nationale: 1
  • Independents: 2
  • Vacant: 1