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The Globe and Mail

Charest tells voters to head to polls to avoid referendum

Quebec Premier Jean Charest smiles as he boards his campaign bus following an election stop at the Jefo manufacturing plant in Saint Hyacinthe, Que., Thursday, August 2, 2012.


Quebec Liberal Leader Jean Charest is calling on staunch federalists such as the province's anglophones to reject the urge to stay at home on Sept. 4 to express their disenchantment with his government.

In an English-language radio interview Friday morning, Mr. Charest warned the Parti Québécois is intent on holding a third referendum on Quebec sovereignty, and that the party will benefit if traditional Liberal voters don't show up at the ballot box.

While anglophones and some immigrant groups are unlikely to vote for the PQ, they might be tempted to stay at home on election day rather than vote for the Quebec Liberal Party.

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However, Mr. Charest said non-voters will in fact be favouring a PQ victory.

"If you don't vote, chances are there will be another referendum, even if you don't want one," Mr. Charest said on CJAD, the main English-language radio news network in Montreal.

"It's very important for those Quebeckers who feel strongly that the last thing they need right now is a referendum campaign go out and vote," he said.

His message is a clear acknowledgement that the Liberals are well below the necessary levels of popular support to form the next government. The party has won its majorities in 2003 and 2008 with over 40-per cent of the vote, but they are currently stuck with 31-per cent support in the latest public opinion polls.

The Quebec Liberals are struggling as concerns are growing in the population over the state of the health-care system and allegations of widespread corruption in the construction industry.

While some predominantly anglophone ridings in the Montreal area are Liberal fortresses, the PQ stands to benefits from a lower Liberal turnout in ridings that are the scene of three-way races with the Coalition Avenir Québec.

Mr. Charest is trying to convince Quebec voters that this election is a defining moment in the province's history, and that his party is the only one that can offer economic and constitutional stability after months of unrest related to student strikes.

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