The Charest government’s controversial university funding plan would be scrapped within the first 100 days of a Parti Québécois government.
That’s the promise made by the PQ on the first full day of the Quebec election campaign Thursday.
PQ Leader Pauline Marois said she would quickly eliminate tuition hikes, cancel the emergency protest law Bill 78, and call a summit on how to better fund universities if she won the Sept. 4 election.
She made those promises while accompanied by one of the leaders of the student strikes — who is now running for her as a candidate in Laval, near Montreal.
That promise in the company of Leo Bureau-Blouin came just after a rowdy night-time protest in Montreal resulted in 17 arrests and some injuries.
But Ms. Marois said it’s not the students who are to blame for the climate of social unrest — she said it’s the fault of Jean Charest’s Liberal government.
Ms. Marois accused the premier of manipulating the student issue, and calling a summer election, to head to the polls before a corruption inquiry returns from its summer break on Sept. 17.
“I’m sorry, but Mr. Charest is profoundly responsible for what is going on right now,” she said.
“The Liberals decided to use this conflict to mask their record. It’s a cynical and premeditated attempt to manipulate public opinion.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Charest made an economic promise Thursday: to reduce unemployment to 6 per cent and work to create 250,000 jobs by 2017.
The 2011 unemployment rate of 7.8 per cent was significantly lower than when Mr. Charest took office in 2003 and comparable to that in the rest of Canada and the United States — which Mr. Charest called a first in 30 years.
The Liberal leader said his employment targets would be reached partly because of mining development under his Plan Nord.
However, the Mr. Charest’s critics suggest his economic record isn’t so clean. They note that Quebec’s debt has actually increased since he took office and, while he made good on a promise to cut personal income taxes, he increased the sales tax and fees for services.