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Coalition Avenir Quebec party leader Francois Legault walks to his campaign bus in Quebec City on Sunday, July 29, 2012.

Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

The Coalition Avenir Québec is promising to lower taxes for middle-class families by a total of $1,000 over the next five years.

The measure was quickly condemned as fiscally irresponsible by Quebec Liberal Leader Jean Charest, highlighting the growing tensions between the two parties in the early portion of the Quebec election campaign.

Mr. Charest launched his bid for re-election last week by focussing his attacks against the sovereigntist Parti Québécois and Leader Pauline Marois. However, the CAQ is occupying an increasing amount of space in the election, which will be held on Sept. 4.

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The CAQ said it will unveil its full fiscal plan in coming days, at which point it will show how it would fund the tax cuts aimed at families making less than $100,000 a year.

"Don't worry, I'm a chartered accountant, everything will balance," Mr. Legault told reporters covering his campaign.

Speaking in Sherbrooke, however, Mr. Charest said the CAQ's tax-cut promise doesn't match Mr. Legault's record when he was a PQ minister and opposed tax cuts.

"He has swung 180 degrees," Mr. Charest said. "Not only does it lack credibility, it is also totally irresponsible."

The Quebec Liberals are vowing to focus on eliminating Quebec's deficit next year, stating that past tax cuts have already helped bring down the fiscal burden of Quebeckers.

"We have done it in the past, now we will balance the budget. That's the priority," Mr. Charest said.

Mr. Charest also attacked the CAQ's star-candidate, anti-corruption crusader Jacques Duchesneau, who has moved away from his threat of launching new allegations of corruption at the Liberals.

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"If he is afraid of lawsuits, it might be because he is not convinced that his information is accurate," Mr. Charest said. "That's quite the confession that he is making."

Mr. Charest, who announced a tax credit of up to $3,000 for "green" home renovations, said the CAQ is showing its true colours with its vague tax cuts and anti-corruption measures.

"It's becoming the hallmark of Mr. Legault's campaign .... it's completely improvised," he said.

Mr. Charest also called on all students and teachers to allow a peaceful back-to-school in the institutions that are re-opening to end the winter session that was disrupted by strikes in the spring. Mr. Charest said the law will have to be respected and that he cannot tolerate any situation in which students are prevented from attending classes.

Mr. Charest added that his government is nearing a deal with the unions representing teachers in the affected schools.

"I'm not wishing to see any perturbations, I want to see an orderly return to school. I ask Quebeckers to respect the laws," Mr. Charest said.

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He denounced Mr. Legault and Ms. Marois for having "buckled" to the pressures of the students by opposing parts or all of Bill 78, designed to crackdown on student protests in the province.

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