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2014-04-05 at 16:11

Sovereignty slump

By Benjamin Shingler, The Canadian Press
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MONTREAL - Quebec Premier Pauline Marois appeared to have some regret on Saturday that she allowed herself to get bogged down in the sovereignty issue as the provincial election campaign entered its final weekend.

When asked Saturday if she could change one aspect of her Parti Quebecois election campaign, Marois told reporters she likely "wouldn't answer questions about sovereignty, given that the key issue remains the choice of a government, a strong government."

The PQ normally avoids talking up the issue during a campaign because of its divisive nature, but hopes of avoiding the topic were derailed early on when star candidate Pierre Karl Peladeau passionately declared his commitment to making Quebec a country.

Soon after, Marois was openly speculating what the currency and borders would look like in an independent Quebec.

The PQ, which called the election when its minority government was atop the polls, has been slumping since.

The latest survey suggests the PQ is losing support to Francois Legault's third-place Coalition party and the social democratic separatist party Quebec solidaire. The Liberals hold the lead.

But Marois said the race isn't over yet and she's still hopeful about the result of Monday's vote. She said her team is best equipped to run the province.

"Everything is possible on Monday, and I will work with our party faithful who are very motivated to get out the vote," Marois said.

For his part, the rival Legault had a spring in his step as he urged voters who may be fed up with the PQ and Liberals to give him a chance.

Legault presented his Coalition party as the best option for those wary of another referendum under the PQ and the "worn-out" Liberals, who he said haven't changed since being in power for nine years under Jean Charest.

"There's a real choice, there's a real alternative, finally, after 40 years, to revive Quebec," Legault said in Quebec City.

As head of the Coalition, the former PQ minister promises to set aside the debate over sovereignty to focus on the economy.

He's also in favour of a secular charter, though it wouldn't go as far the PQ's proposal.

According to polls, Legault's party is gaining in popularity in the final days of the campaign, though it still remains behind the PQ and the first-place Liberals.

Legault said he has the momentum on his side, insisting once again he still has a shot at becoming Quebec's next premier.

At a news conference, Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard urged those considering throwing their support to Legault to think strategically.

He warned that a vote for the Coalition party would likely hand power to the PQ.

Couillard promised to implement a plan to jumpstart Quebec's economy "within hours of the election" and urged Liberal party faithful to rally to get the Liberals a majority.

A Leger Marketing poll released Saturday pegged the Liberals at 38 per cent, compared with 29 per cent for the Parti Quebecois, 23 per cent for the Coalition party, and nine per cent for Quebec solidaire.

The April 2-3 online survey of 1,220 Quebecers was conducted for Le Journal de Montreal and is considered accurate within 3.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

- with files from Martin Ouellet in Levis, Alexandre Robillard in Drummondville, and Patrice Bergeron in Quebec City

The Canadian Press
© The Canadian Press, 2014

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