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Charest says he has no plans to quit Add to ...

Even with his popularity reaching record lows and his government handicapped by a myriad of allegations of corruption Premier Jean Charest says he has no plans to quit before the end his mandate.

Mr. Charest recognized that it's been a difficult year and that he's had to overcome numerous challenges to his personal integrity.

"I'm never tired of fighting...I bounce back. When it happens to me I don't say I'm going to throw in the towel. It's not going to happen that way...You do politics because you believe in it," Mr. Charest said during his appearance on a popular televised talk show that was aired Sunday night on Radio-Canada television network.

"I'm going to finish my mandate," Mr. Charest said hinting that he may run again in the next general election. " Quebeckers will decide. That the whole sense of a mandate. That's where you have to be careful...A mandate is judged by the results not by the daily news. It's not true that we are going to hang someone based on a headline in a newspaper."

The talk show called 'Tout le monde en parle' was an ideal forum for the Premier to get his message across to the more than 1.5-million viewers who tune-in to watch the show each week.

With three years left in his mandate, the Premier indicated that time was on his side as he undertakes the long process of rehabilitating his government and prepare for the next election. He was convinced that issues involving corruption will be overtaken by his government's economic achievements

Mr. Charest reiterated the reasons why he continued to refuse to appoint a public inquiry into allegation of collusion and corruption that have plagued his government for months despite public opinion polls showing that eight out of 10 Quebecers have been urging him to hold it.

The Premier insisted that a public inquiry would do nothing to solve the problems created by alleged corruption in the construction industry. He reiterated that police investigations will gather evidence that will eventually lead to arrests and convictions. He said that next year he will set-up a permanent anti-corruption agency to that will serve as a watchdog over the construction industry.

As he has often done in the past, Mr. Charest sidestepped questions regarding the difficulty police investigations face in unveiling the system that critics have argued his government has developed over the years. A system with entrepreneurs who have allegedly received lucrative government contracts in return for political contributions.

"Let the police and the prosecutors do their work," Mr. Charest said adding that Action démocratique du Québec party leader Gérald Deltell went too far in accusing him recently of being the "godfather" of the Liberal family.

"It's not because you disagree with someone that it gives you the right to be dishonest and a Mafioso," Mr. Charest said. 'That's going too far."

The premier had immediately demanded a retraction from Mr. Deltell but said on Sunday that he hasn't decided yet whether to launch a libel suit against him.

However his $700,000 libel suit against former justice minister Marc Bellemare was proceeding Mr. Charest said. He was cautious in his criticism of his former minister whose allegations of influence peddling in the nomination of judges prompted the holding of a public inquiry known as the Bastarache Commission.

The commission will table its report next month. Combined with legislation imposing tougher rules on the financing of political parties and leadership races as well as a new code of ethics for municipal and provincial politicians, Mr. Charest suggested in another interview aired on a TVA network current affairs show that he will be able to turn the page on the issue of corruption and set a new course for his government.

"I know where I'm going," Mr. Charest said on the current affairs show 'Larocque-Lapierre' aired in Sunday. He said voters remained highly volatile and that they could easily change their view of his government despite a current approval rating of only 16-per cent.

"Voter volatility is higher now than it's ever been. There is more volatility and that gives us something to consider in knowing that people can easily change their mind."

Mr. Charest also projected that a federal election will be held next spring and that it will give his government an opportunity to pressure Ottawa into settling a number of irritants including compensation for the harmonization in the early 1990's of the federal and provincial sales taxes similar to what other provinces received.

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