Jean Charest has suddenly turned all of his guns at the Coalition Avenir Québec, describing its leader as a "left-winger" who is more intent on spending money than balancing the province's books.
"François Legault has launched into an unprecedented spending spree," the Quebec Liberal Leader said. "One could believe that Mr. Legault has stumbled in a casino."
Mr. Charest's attacks came as two new polls showcased weaknesses in support for his Quebec Liberal Party, especially among francophone voters who will have a large sway over the majority of ridings in the province on Sept. 4. While Mr. Charest spent the first days of his campaign attacking the Parti Québécois, he is increasingly targeting his comments at the upstart CAQ.
In particular, Mr. Charest seized on the notion that the party has already made commitments of more than $4-billion in the campaign, without revealing its overall fiscal plans for the province. Mr. Charest seemed to try to create a wedge among the supporters of the CAQ, a new fiscally conservative party that swallowed the right-wing Action Démocratique du Québec this year.
"Mr. Legault was supposedly focused on cleaning things up, but he is now writing cheques to everyone during the campaign," Mr. Charest said. "The former ADQ supporters must be surprised to see this left-winger, Mr. Legault, decide to spend money before even balancing the books."
Mr. Charest, whose campaign is based on a series of tightly focussed job-creation measures, is arguing that the priority is bringing Quebec out of its deficit in next year's budget. He described Mr. Legault as "an accountant who can't count."
He went on to say that instead of a Coalition, the "C" in CAQ actually stands for "contradiction."
Mr. Charest refused to comment on the new polls or his own internal numbers, but he made clear that he is aware of the trends after a first week on the election trail.
"I do campaign. This is a campaign where Quebeckers will have a choice," he said. "I'm going to offer a very distinct choice from our adversaries. I'm focused on jobs, the economy and democracy."
Pointing to misleading polls in the recent Alberta election, he said his "golden rule" is to take all numbers with a grain of salt.
"A poll tells a story, it never tells the whole story," he said.
Asked to describe his campaign, Mr. Charest acknowledged that the rhythm is relatively slow as many Quebeckers are still on holidays.
"We have to adapt the campaign to the context," he said.