A Liberal star candidate’s comparison of Coalition Avenir Quebec Leader Francois Legault to U.S. President Donald Trump ruffled feathers on the provincial election campaign Monday.
Marwah Rizqy’s weekend comments followed the release of a series of text messages between Francois Legault and Gertrude Bourdon, who spurned Legault’s Coalition last week in favour of the Liberals.
Rizqy described as “sexist” Legault’s decision to go public with the messages and said it was the type of politics practised south of the border.
“I would like to convince people to enter politics, but they tell me that they find it dirty, and I can hardly contradict them,” she said.
“Sadly, it reminds me of 1/8 Donald3/8 Trump’s policies.”
Rizqy made the comments during the opening of a riding office alongside senior Liberal Christine St-Pierre, who called out Legault for his “feminist facade.”
On Saturday, the Coalition, which is riding high in opinion polls, trumpeted it has more women than men seeking office in the campaign leading to the Oct. 1 provincial election.
Legault said he released the messages to show Bourdon was ready to join his party and added he would have done the same if it had been a man.
“I won’t be distracted, there have been fear campaigns for months from the Liberal party,” Legault said Monday in Bromont.
“It surprises me that (Liberal Leader) Philippe Couillard allows comments like that. I understand the Liberals are a little bit in a panic, but we won’t let it distract us.”
Couillard told reporters in his riding of Roberval he wouldn’t make comparisons about his political opponent, but added that women in his party have the right to speak their mind.
“All I will say on the matter is that in my political team, in my caucus, women are free to express themselves as they wish,” Couillard said.
Parti Quebecois Leader Jean-Francois Lisee said he found it “odious” to compare any Quebec politician to the U.S. president and added that Couillard should rein in his candidate.
Day 5 of the campaign also saw the PQ talk up a new mobile application to help promote carpooling to ease traffic during rush hour.
Lisee told reporters on Montreal’s north shore such an app would search through existing platforms like Netlift and Amigo Express and that a PQ government would pay $4 to each driver and passenger for every rush-hour trip in the first year and $3 for each ride in subsequent years.
The money would come from the province’s Green Fund.
Couillard’s Liberals, meanwhile, took advantage of the first day of school for some Quebec students to pledge free education for four-year-olds, be they enrolled in daycare or pre-kindergarten.
It was part of wide array of measures included in a commitment to increase the education budget by $3 billion over four years.
Among the promises is the addition of a second person — a teacher or resource person —in pre-school and Grade 1 classes. Intensive English courses would also kick in for Grade 5 and 6 students.
Meanwhile, Legault’s team heralded the future return of a so-called baby bonus that would see the province financially assist parents looking to have more than one child.
Currently the tax credit for the first child is $2,400, with $1,200 for each subsequent child. Legault said a Coalition government would make it $2,400 across the board.
When Legault raised the idea last year, Couillard called it a proposal from another century, when the church urged women to have larger families.
Encouraging the birthrate is at the heart of the Coalition platform to stem the province’s demographic woes, which the party says is undermining economic development.
Also on Monday, left-leaning Quebec solidaire outlined how it plans to pay for some of its promises, including free universal dental care and free education from daycare through university.
The party says it believes it can generate an extra $2 billion in additional revenues by increasing the income tax of people who make more than $97,000 and by cleaning up the tax credits Quebecers receive.
It’s part of a dozen measures outlining the party’s financial framework, which would include raising corporate taxes to 14.5 per cent from 11.7 for employers with 500 workers or more.
The tax rate for small- and medium-sized enterprises would remain unchanged.
— with files from Vicky Fragasso-Marquis in Terrebonne, Que.; Caroline Plante in Bromont, Que.; Lia Levesque in Montreal and Patrice Bergeron in Roberval, Que.